Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A woman walks into a pub wanting an ex Garda to investigate the apparent suicide of her daughter. Jack Taylor is the ex Garda in question. He is an alcoholic and a private detective. Though he won't admit to the latter saying that to the Irish it sounds too much like the dreaded informer.

First published in 2001 Brandon books have reissued "The Guards" the first in the series of the detective novels featuring Jack Taylor. Set in Galway City the novels are as much about Taylor coming to terms with his inner demons as well as him solving the crime.

The Guards begins with Jack Taylor providing us with information as to the circumstances of his leaving the Gardai, the Irish police force. He is sought out by clients in a traditional pub down a back street in Galway city center.

Throughout Taylor is a fascinating and contradictory character, a hard man with a sentimental heart, a former garda with an intense dislike of the police force, a philistine with a tremendous love of literature.

Indeed literature features throughout with Taylor saying that his life no matter what books have been part of his life. Poets and novelists are liberally quoted and Taylor is shown to be much more than the average down at heel private investigator.

Ken Bruen's Jack Taylor novels can be said to be a paean to old Galway city. A Galway city prior to the arrival of mass tourism and the building boom. Throughout Taylor laments the passing of the old city and the genuine Galwegian. Ken Bruen knows his city, knows it's history and people only too well. Fast paced and dialogue driven "The Guards" will keep the reader riveted till the last page.

Winner in the Best Novel category of the 2004 Shamus Awards, The Guards has recently been adapted for film. It stars Iain Glen as Jack Taylor with Tara Breathnach and Nora-Jane Noone also starring.


Friday, February 19, 2010

An American film producer on vacation in Thailand is found dead in a seedy hotel in Bangkok. Detectives Sukum and Sonchai Jitpleecheep, affable hero of the novel, of the Royal Thai police force are sent to investigate. From glancing around the room Sonchai is able to correctly deduce the manner in which the American was murdered. Sukum is awed by Sonji's powers.

Beginning with Bangkok 8, The Godfather of Katmandu is the fourth in the series of novels featuring Thai detective Sonji. Narrated by Detective Sonji Jitpleecheep of the Royal Thai police force, the reader is lead through the seemingly impenetrable labyrinth of Thai culture and customs. Sonji is both an insider and an outsider in Thai society. His mother (a Madame) is Thai while his father is an American GI whom he has never met. He is cosmopolitan having spent part of his childhood in Paris where he learned to appreciate the great auteurs of French cinema. Something, which will be of invaluable assistance in solving this case.

Because of his mixed blood and methods of deduction Sonji is viewed with a mixture of both respect and suspicion by his colleagues in the police force. He is usually called upon to deal with crimes involving Farang (foreigners).

Sonji will conduct us through Thai high society where we will encounter drug-addicted doctors, old ladies reminiscing for the days of the raj, and centuries old secret societies. We encounter Sonji's boss in the police force Colonel Vikorn, the chief of Police in the Bangkok and a major drug dealer in Thailand. Sonji informs the reader of Colonel Vikorn's rivalry with Zinna a General in the Thai army. A rivalry concerned not with national security but rather who is destined to become the country's biggest drug lord.

The action in the narrative switches from Bangkok to Katmandu, where Sonji is dispatched by his boss to meet a seemingly drug dealing Buddhist Lama. From this point things start to go downhill for the good detective. Sonji already a practicing Buddhist comes under the spell of the Llama. He asks this Lama for mystical enlightenment and the Llama reluctantly agrees. On returning to Bangkok Sonji endures great personal tragedy resulting in his marriage coming asunder and his descent into a netherworld of mysticism and drugs.

The Godfather of Katmandu is at times humorous, at times mysterious but never ever boring. For an exotic well written thriller with an entertaining plot and characters you can't help but empathise with you would be well advised to look no further than here.


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