The Dramatist MP3 CD – Sep 30 2010
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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.
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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)
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.
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