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The Emerald Lie: A Jack Taylor Novel

Review

The Emerald Lie: A Jack Taylor Novel

No one writes crime novels quite like Ken Bruen. His style takes on the qualities of a somewhat disjointed soliloquy that one can hear in the author’s own voice and no other. He has tinkered with the classic building blocks of the novel, rearranging things here and there and creating a narrative that becomes more unique book by book.

This is particularly true with regard to Bruen’s long-running and irresistible Jack Taylor literary series (there is also a television series available on Netflix), of which THE EMERALD LIE is the latest. Jack Taylor is an ex-member of the Galway Garda, who was summarily bounced off the force for the impulse problems that plague him well into the present. He has yet, after lo these many years, to return the uniform jacket, one of his many endearing yet potentially self-destructive traits that somehow keep him alive while also keeping him adrift. The books, told in Jack’s first person voice, often drift into a stream of consciousness that shares quite a bit with the author, to the extent that one occasionally wonders how much of the proceedings are fictional and how much are autobiographical. The narrative may wander, but it does so beautifully, with turns of phrase --- some original, some quoted, always properly credited --- that tempt the reader to break the vow not to underline in the book.

"The narrative may wander, but it does so beautifully, with turns of phrase...that tempt the reader to break the vow not to underline in the book."

THE EMERALD LIE is a crime novel in the Bruen fashion, as a number of different incidents occur in Galway with Jack becoming involved in varying degrees. For one, Galway is in the grip of terror as a serial murderer is obsessed with killing those who commit grammatical errors. The fiend in question, who comes to be known as “the Grammarian,” reminds me of the type of villain one would find in a Grant Morrison graphic novel (I believe Bruen knows what a high compliment that is) as he performs his executions in public, at random, and otherwise hides in plain sight. Meanwhile, Jack is retained by the father of a young woman who has been brutally raped and murdered. The man wants revenge; it is apparent that the actions against the victim were committed by her employer, Real Time, Inc., an Eastern European company functioning as a front for the production of some of the most vile movies that hired the young lady under false pretenses.

Jack investigates the company, to his regret, but also renews old and dangerous acquaintances with Emily, whose love-hate relationship with him began in GREEN HELL. Emily desires a relationship with Jack, who wants no part of her, even as he sinks deeper into the morass of his substance abuse. He leaves Galway to escape her, but trouble of the most vicious sort finds him on the way back. The result leads to a climax that, to say the least, is unexpected even as it is (almost) inevitable. What will happen next? One could ask that at the end of many Jack Taylor books, which is but one of many qualities that make them so beautifully funny and terribly painful, often within the same vignette or sentence.

I picture Bruen not so much writing as transcribing the words of a sweet fallen angel that are whispered feverishly into his ear. The result manifests itself in books that are often sad but frequently funny, so real that one is compelled to keep reading, even when such is difficult. As I said initially, no one writes crime novels quite like Ken Bruen. And you should read every one of them, whether you begin with THE EMERALD LIE or not.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on September 9, 2016

The Emerald Lie: A Jack Taylor Novel
by Ken Bruen

  • Publication Date: August 30, 2016
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Mysterious Press
  • ISBN-10: 0802125468
  • ISBN-13: 9780802125460