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The Dramatist [Audio CD]

Ken Bruen

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Book Description

Sept. 30 2010 Jack Taylor
The impossible has happened: Jack Taylor is living clean and dating a mature woman. Rumour suggests he is even attending mass...The accidental deaths of two students appear random, tragic events, except that in each case a copy of a book by John Millington Synge is found beneath the body. Jack begins to believe that 'The Dramatist', a calculating killer, is out there, enticing him to play. As the case twists and turns Jack's refuge, the city of Galway, now demands he sacrifice the only love he's maintained, and while Iraq burns, he seems a step away from the abyss.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Last seen in Bruen's The Magdalen Martyrs (2004), Irish detective Jack Taylor is sober and hating it in his stellar fourth outing. Things are looking up for the well-worn detective—at least until the apparently accidental death of the sister of his drug dealer, who's now in jail. As Taylor pursues the well-read killer in Dublin, he gets involved in the life of an old flame, Ann Henderson, and her abusive husband. A group of shadowy pike-wielding vigilantes adds extra spice to the mix. By now, readers know the Bruen formula of the downward spiral, but there's no denying the effectiveness of the tough dialogue, the crisp scenes and Taylor's weary, crumpled-jacket appeal. Nor can many writers in any genre evoke a seedy urban Ireland as well as Bruen. Few, too, can continue to deliver interesting stories and even more interesting character studies. With a riveting mystery and a deftly rendered protagonist, Bruen recaptures the immediacy and the impact of the first two novels in the series (The Guards and The Killing of the Tinkers). (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Jack Taylor is--shock and horror!--sober. linging tenuously to a booze-free and nicotine-rationed regimen, he's trying to get his life in order. Not bloody likely. Taylor's incarcerated former drug dealer wants his daughter's killer caught. A chance encounter with an old lover leads to Taylor being beaten senseless with a hurley stick. And as murders multiply, it looks as if Taylor is in the crosshairs of both the killer and a vigilante group called the Pikemen. Tying it all together, somehow, is the work of John Millington Synge. Readers who worry that Taylor's tenuous sobriety will water down either his cranky personality or the generally offbeat appeal of Bruen's books needn't be concerned. This one sports the same great mix of curmudgeonly observations and unpredictable cultural references that has won Bruen a devoted cadre of fans. But while no one reads him for the detection, the plot here exceeds his own standards for casualness, and the double-noir ending feels tacked on. The prolific Bruen, still good, needs to catch a gear if he wants to avoid spinning his wheels. Keir Graff
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  34 reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another Winner in the "Jack Taylor" Series Dec 31 2004
By James Clar - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Reading Ken Bruen, as anyone who ever has will tell you, is like playing with fire; you know that your feelings, your emotions and your sensibilities are apt to get burned, but you just can't resist the almost primal allure of the heat and flame. Well, reading THE DRAMATIST, the author's fourth novel featuring alcoholic ex-Guard Jack Taylor, will make cauterizing a raw nerve with a blow torch seem like a pleasant diversion. With Bruen's trademark terse prose, dialogue as hard as Connemara marble and as sharp as an icy wind off the Irish Sea, this one will - to borrow a line from James Ellroy - leave you "reamed, steamed and dry-cleaned." And that's all before you get to the absolutely horrific and unspeakable denouement on the novel's penultimate page. All that yawns ahead of Jack Taylor at the end of this incandescent work is utter darkness and it seems impossible to conceive of a way whereby even he - the ultimate "survivor" - might find his way back into the light.

The three previous Jack Taylor novels suffered from the fact that, in them, the author devoted so much time and energy to introducing and exploring the tortured psyche of his main character that some elements of good plot development were neglected. Not so this time around. In The Dramatist Bruen manages to weave together an intriguing and wholly coherent story line with the kind of in-depth character study that is so much a part of what makes this series so blasted good. This novel is still largely character-driven, to be sure, but in it Bruen uses plot in service of character and not merely as a necessary but regrettable evil. All the pieces fit together here and all of Jack's chickens come home to roost. It's in this novel, in other words, that all of the fragmented, jagged and jarring aspects of Jack Taylor's life and personality - so painstakingly depicted in those three earlier books - coalesce and redound to Jack like some kind of high-voltage karmic thunderbolt. This is crime fiction written on the scale of Sophoclean tragedy.

If you are unfamiliar with Ken Bruen's work in general and with the Jack Taylor novels in particular, THE DRAMATIST is a great place to make the acquaintance of both. It represents the author firing on all cylinders. Fans of Bruen's work, and those already acquainted with Jack Taylor, be forewarned: nothing in those earlier novels will prepare you for what transpires at the end of this one. But, in retrospect, everything there should have done so.

Read the full text of this review first published in MYSTERY NEWS (August/September 2004)
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Makes Hell Look Like a Happy Place May 3 2007
By Gary Griffiths - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
There is some small injustice in describing Ken Bruen's "The Dramatist" as simply "noir". While all of Bruen's writing is bleak - in-your-face crime fiction with no regard for inane political correctness or modern niceties, "The Dramatist" reads like a chainsaw to the gut - an emotional tour de force that will leave fragments of Bruen's broken prose haunting your subconscious weeks after you've turned the last page. Yeah, this is black - Stygian black, about as dark as fiction gets.

Galway ex-Guard Jack Taylor is back, who as a favor to his imprisoned former drug dealer is pulled into the investigation of the death of a college student. The apparently accidental fall down a boarding house staircase, while tragic, looks benign enough. Except for the unexplained volume of Irish playwright J.M. Synge ("A Playboy of the Western World") tucked under her body. But what seems to initially be an unexplained coincidence turns sinister when a similar fate visits another student. As expected from Burke, the mystery of the apparent murders, while compelling, fades a bit into the background under the ferocity and intensity of the irreverent and unrepentant Jack Taylor. And as always, the ridiculously well read Bruen spices this bare-knuckled tale with an eclectic collection of quotes from Synge (as expected), Robert Crais, James Lee Burke, Sean Burke, Matthew Stokoe, and several more. The Irish melancholy and fatalism reads as thick as a Galway sea fret as Taylor lumbers through the crimes and busted love affairs as well, leading to a climax that while fitting with the tone and timbre, nonetheless hit me like a two-by-four between the eyes.

The prolific Bruen continues to write like nobody in the business today. I'll concede, if you enjoy beautiful action hero-type people straight from People Magazine, complete with neat and happy little endings to wrap them up, then Bruen's jagged tales of sparsely written brutality may have you billing OT with your analyst. But if you're looking for that off-the-beaten track maverick who'd prefer to rewrite the genre than follow the pack, get to know this guy.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars EXCELLENT! April 6 2005
By L. J. Roberts - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Ken Bruen's writing is exceptional. It's tight, involving, brutal, funny, and tragic all at the same time. While there is a mystery here, it is really the study of Jack that is the focus. Although I recognized the killer fairly early on, and I saw the end coming just before it happened, it made the end no less shattering. This is not an emotionally easy series to read, and certainly not for the cozy reader, but one I cannot rate highly enough.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "what dread hand?" Dec 12 2006
By Jay F. Bolick - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is the fourth novel in Bruen's dark and brooding Galway series. Jack Taylor is battered by nearly every sling and arrow the Fates can muster, but he is still standing. Bruen is both moralist and philosopher as he chronicles Taylor's journey through a life rife with violence and devoid of any apparent meaning. This is a world where, as Vonnegut might say, God has gone out for a coffee break and forgotten to come back. Taylor, a profoundly imperfect alcoholic, does his best to follow his own moral compass. He tries to do the right thing. When moved to violence he is like the left hand of an absent god. Or is he the Devil's Right Hand? It's hard to say. His personal tragedies and hardships have approached Job like proportions. As Samuel B. would say: "I can't go on. I'll go on." Don't let Bruen's fondness for quoting Thomas Merton or Pascal fool you though. These novels are still ripping good entertainment despite the philosophical underpinnings. Yup, they're "Noir" alright. And Hank Williams was a "country singer". So what? The univeral themes of literature change very little, if at all. Bruen is not a slave to the form of the "crime novel". He uses that form to express himself much as a fine guitarist might use a 12-bar blues as a basis for the most individualistic or idiosyncratic playing. These novels have the weight and heft of a well-used hurley, or 'camaan', the ancient Irish weapon-cum-sporting implement that Taylor both delivers and receives lessons with. Take a firm but relaxed grip and swoosh it through the air. Think about the scumbag down the block who sold crank to your teenage nephew. What are you gonna do next?
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A compelling character study and mystery March 28 2006
By Bookreporter - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Jack Taylor gone sober? Teetotaling makes the ex-policeman more morose than usual, if that's possible. Perpetually trudging through life with an attitude that could shrivel steel, Jack without the booze --- well, let's just say it isn't pretty.

Stewart, Jack's ex-drug dealer --- current drug dealer until a stint in Mountjoy Prison interrupted business --- asks Jack to look into the death of his sister, Sarah. Jack reluctantly agrees to check it out, but his heart isn't really in it. He's not only been sober for months, he's been involuntarily celibate. Whether due to either of those two factors or another of his numerous woes, his mind has a tendency to wander, sidetracking him with a vengeance. In addition to everything else he's dealing with, he's trying to avoid the question of what to do about his ailing mother. Despite his crushing personal problems, Jack manages to do a fair bit of investigating. And his investigation turns up some stunning irregularities surrounding Sarah's death --- irregularities that are peculiar enough to make him want to delve a little deeper. It dawns on him that he may be looking at murder here. When there's another death with identical circumstances, Jack is more than convinced. But he can't seem to get anyone else to care.

Along comes Margaret, who miraculously takes an interest in poor Jack, and he allows himself to wallow in happiness for a little while. But he should know better than to let his guard down. Good stuff just doesn't happen to Jack. Then, while recuperating from an encounter with an old girlfriend's new husband, he runs afoul of the Pikemen, vigilante guards with a vow to take up where the law leaves off. They proudly don't deny responsibility for a couple of recent brutal attacks. And they aren't very nice to Jack. So just where do they fit into his investigation?

Meanwhile, the "swan killer" from somewhere in his past keeps showing up at odd times, almost as though he were stalking Jack --- but why? He says it's to thank him and because he wants them to be friends. Jack, as you might imagine, is dubious. Could there be a connection to the dead girls?

As always, Jack's mouth brings him a great deal of pain, some of it emotional but much of it physical. He can't seem to maintain control --- of his life or his tongue.

Now, as he's starting to feel pretty darned good about things, they go bad --- spectacularly bad. "An event was coming down the pike, already shaping in its black destructive energy and preparing to rip my life in pieces, pieces that would never be restored." The "event" will leave you gasping. Truly, Jack may never recover from this one.

While Ken Bruen's stories are really a powerful character study of Jack Taylor, a man headed toward self-destruction, he manages to work in a mystery around the edges. But it's not the mystery that's compelling. It's simply Jack and his outlook on life. This Jack Taylor installment will rock your world --- way more than the first three.

--- Reviewed by Kate Ayers
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