Executive Times






2007 Book Reviews


Priest by Ken Bruen








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Ken Bruen’s fifth novel featuring the Galway ex-cop and recovering alcoholic, Jack Taylor, is titled Priest. Following Jack’s five month confinement in a mental hospital (which Bruen calls a “loony bin”), he’s asked by a scared priest to investigate the beheading of a pedophile priest. Darkness, alienation, and Irish melancholy abound on these pages. Jack is a complicated character whose behavior is both expected and unpredictable. Here’s an excerpt, from the beginning of Chapter 4, pp. 29-32:


‘“We do not choose as captain of a ship the most highly born of those aboard.’”

Pascal, Pensees, 320




Priests in a scandal-hit diocese have been warned to avoid contact with children while in public view. A code of conduct from the Ferns Diocese states clergy and volunteers should not be alone in a car, building or closed room with a young person.


The Daily Mirror, 26 June 2003



The priest case was heavy on my mind and I asked myself, ‘What do I care?’

Priests and I hadn’t exactly a good history, but you grow up Catholic, they have you. Deny all you like, they own your arse, and maybe my interest in this was because of my father. He always had respect for the clergy. He didn’t like them who did? But he used to say,

‘Their job isn’t easy and our job is to support them.’

I didn’t believe that any more, but I still believed in him so I decided to have a look at the case. Just maybe, I could achieve one thing he might be proud of.

Was I deluding myself? You betcha. But it’s what I do best, and who knew? I might even gouge back some iota of respect for my own self.

I scoured the libraries, collected all the back story I could. I read till my eyes hurt and I got what the Guards had gotten.


Did that deter me?

Did it fuck.

If it had been easy, I’d have left it there. I determined to stick with it. If I’d known then where this initial resolution would take me into the heart of the Irish soul would I have turned away?

Probably not.

I never did before.

That pain-in-the-arse adage about those who ignore the past being doomed to repeat it they wrote that for me. If I’d known all the torments of the past, the lost love, the humiliation, shame and the oddest friendship on the face of God’s earth that awaited me, would I have acted differ­ently?

With knowledge aforethought, would I have said,

‘Nope, not for me, thanks, I’ll preserve what little sanity I have.’

Alas, I’d have still walked that road of unhappy destiny.


Because I’m an eejit and, worse, a stubborn one.


Sister Mary Joseph was wringing her hands. It was her birthday, she was seventy years old, and though she never told anyone when the date fell, offering it up for the souls in Purgatory, she did allow for one treat each year Haagen­Dazs, strawberry shortcake, large tub and ate the whole shebang in one fell swoop. This year, she was too worried to eat. She was, in fact, worried sick. She’d known about Father Joyce’s little temptations and had seen the altar boys crying, in obvious distress, but she had never told a soul. She was a nun, it wasn’t her place.

As Father Joyce’s little temptations grew uglier and more obscene, she had to bite her tongue and pray for guidance. She couldn’t go up against a priest, it was unheard of, and so she stifled her conscience, turned a blind eye to the state of the altar boys. Now, with the murder of Father Joyce, she began to wonder if perhaps the madman might come after her. She took out her heavy rosary, stayed on her knees for hours, and still the fear and trepidation only increased. In bed that night, she cried for the boys, and for the loss of the ice cream too, melting away slowly beneath her bed. She could swear she heard it trickle.


Bruen’s characters and language are moody and addictive. Priest is finely written, and Jack Taylor’s troubles will make your own feel like a walk in the park. Priest is crime fiction of the highest caliber.


Steve Hopkins, July 25, 2007



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The recommendation rating for this book appeared

 in the August 2007 issue of Executive Times


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