The Guards (Jack Taylor Series #1)

The Guards (Jack Taylor Series #1)

by Ken Bruen

Paperback(First Edition)

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Still stinging from his unceremonious ouster from the Garda Siochana, and staring at the world through the smoky bottom of his beer mug, Jack Taylor is stuck in Galway with nothing to look forward to. He is teetering on the brink of his life's sharpest edges, his memories of the past cutting deep into his soul and his prospects for the future non-existent. Until a dazzling woman walks into the bar with a strange request and a rumour about Jack's talent for finding things. Odds are he won't be able to climb off his barstool long enough to get involved, but when he surprises himself by getting hired, Jack has little idea of what he's getting into.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780312320270
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 01/19/2004
Series: Jack Taylor Series , #1
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 113,611
Product dimensions: 5.57(w) x 8.18(h) x 0.79(d)

About the Author

Ken Bruen has been an English teacher in Africa, Japan, Southeast Asia, and South America. He has been a finalist for the Edgar and Anthony Awards, and has won a Macavity Award, a Barry Award, and two Shamus Awards for the Jack Taylor series. He is also the author of the Inspector Brant series. Several of Bruen's novels have been adapted for the screen: The first six jack Taylor novels were adapted into a television series starring Iain Glen; Blitz was adapted into a movie starring Jason Statham; and London Boulevard was adapted into a film starring Colin Farrell and Keira Knightley. Bruen lives in Galway, Ireland.

Read an Excerpt

It's almost impossible to be thrown out of the Garda Siochana. You have to really put your mind to it. Unless you become a public disgrace, they'll tolerate most anything.

I'd been to the wire. Numerous



Last chances


And still I didn't shape up.

Or rather sober up. Don't get me wrong. The gardai and drink have a long, almost loving relationship. Indeed, a tee-total garda is viewed with suspicion, if not downright derision, inside and outside the force.

My supervisor at the training barracks said,

"We all like a pint."

Nods and grunts from trainees.

"And the public likes us to like a pint."

Better and better.

"What they don't like is a blackguard."

He paused to let us taste the pun. He pronounced it, in the Louth fashion, "blaggard".

Ten years later I was on my third warning. Called before a supervisor, it was suggested I get help.

"Times have changed, sonny. Nowadays there's treatment programmes, twelve-step centres, all kinds of help. A spell in John O' God's is no shame any more. You'll rub shoulders with the clergy and politicians."

I wanted to say,

"That's supposed to be an incentive!"

But I went. On release, I stayed dry for a while, but gradually, I drank again.

It's rare for a garda to get a home posting, but it was felt my home town would be a benefit.

An assignment on a bitter cold February evening. Dark as bejaysus. Operating a speed trap on the outskirts of the city. The duty sergeant had stipulated,

"I want results, no exceptions."

My partner was a Roscommon man named Clancy. He'd an easygoing manner and appeared to ignore my drinking. I had a thermos of coffee, near bulletproof with brandy. It was going down easy.

Too easy.

We were having a slow duty. Word was out on our location. Drivers were suspiciously within the limit. Clancy sighed, said,

"They're on to us."

"Sure are."

Then a Mercedes blasted by. The clock hit thermo. Clancy shouted,


I had the car in gear and we were off. Clancy, in the passenger seat, said,

"Jack, slow down, I think we might forget this one."


"The plate . . . see the plate?"

"Yeah, so what."

"It's government."

"It's a bloody scandal."

I had the siren wailing, but it was a good ten minutes before the Merc pulled over. As I opened my door, Clancy grabbed my arm, said,

"Bit o' discretion, Jack."

"Yeah, right."

I rapped on the driver's window. Took his time letting it down. The driver, a smirk in place, asked,

"Where's the fire?"

"Get out."

Before he could respond, a man leaned over from the back, said,

"What's going on?"

I recognised him. A high profile TD. I said,

"Your driver was behaving like a lunatic."

He asked,

"Have you any idea who you're talking to?"

"Yeah, the gobshite who screwed the nurses."

Clancy tried to run block, whispered,

"Jeez, Jack, back off."

The TD was outa the car, coming at me. Indignation writ huge, he was shouting,

"Yah brazen pup, I'll have your job. Do you have any idea of what's going to happen?"

I said,

"I know exactly what's going to happen."

And punched him in the mouth.

Copyright 2001 by Ken Bruen

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The Guards (Jack Taylor Series #1) 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 32 reviews.
TEST NOOKUSER More than 1 year ago
if you like lehane you'll love this.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Ken Bruen's novel gets you into Jack Taylor's head. Unfortunately, it's not a great place, with all the alcohol and depression. You'll get upset at Jack, you'll cheer for Jack, but what you won't be able to do is put down the book - unless it's to pour yourself a large Jamesons.
Bryce Wilson More than 1 year ago
This is the good stuff brutal and hilarious.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In Galway, Ireland, Ann Henderson visits finder (there are no private detectives in this country) Jack Taylor in his office, a table at Grogan¿s Pub. Jack is an alcoholic former Garda who was fired for hitting a VIP. Ann hires Jack to look into the death of her beloved sixteen year old daughter Sarah, ruled a suicide. Ann does not believe her daughter would leave her so alone in life and then there was the anonymous phone call insisting the teen was drowned. Jack asks his partner Catherine Bellingham to do some computer research. Cathy learns that the victim worked at Planters where two other young girls also killed themselves and that the manager plays golf with the Garda superintendent and hires police guards as moonlighters. As he digs deeper two thugs beat up Jack, warning him to back off, but he recognizes the shoes as belonging to the Garda. Jack continues his inquiries while other incidents occur, but whether it is the alcohol providing false courage or just Ann encouraging him, he refuses to quit until he uncovers the truth of what happened to Sarah. THE GUARDS is a terse crime thriller that grips the audience from the onset because the protagonist is a hard-boiled antihero acting heroically. Readers will like the lead character, though many will prefer he give up the booze, but then readers wouldn¿t know Jack. Though some personal subplots explain Jack, they also take away from the fast-paced story line that will remind the audience of the 1930s detectives as Ken Bruen provides an engaging urban noir that hijacks readers from start to finish. Harriet Klausner
DeltaQueen50 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Guards by Ken Bruen is the first entry in his original series featuring Jack Taylor. Jack, currently living in Galway has the dubious record of having been expelled from the Irish police force, the Guardia for excessive drunkenness. He does the work of a PI but doesn¿t like to refer to himself in that term as, in Ireland, it can be confused with the word ¿informer¿ which is mightily frowned upon.This book is so much more than a crime story. In fact the crime is very much a secondary story, given to us in small doses. Instead it reads more like a diary, filled with Jack¿s personal references, thoughts on life and on being Irish. With his unique writing style, Bruen has produced a intelligent, character driven story that has left me hungry for more.A lot of books give you flawed heroes, but Jack Taylor stands heads and shoulders above them all. Stumbling through life, addicted to alcohol , prone to blackouts, creating one mess after another, Jack still has the ability to make you root for him. No matter how down and out he gets (and he seems to get pretty low), he manages to pick himself up and carry on. Jack is a book lover, or as he would say, ¿a hoor for books¿ and always has the appropriate quote for whatever situation he finds himself in.I think this is the type of book one either loves or hates. It has a strong, hard-boiled style than may not appeal to everyone. As for me, Jack Taylor is a character I¿m looking forward to reading more about. Irreverent and gritty, funny and wise, The Guards has just whetted my appetite.
maneekuhi on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
SPOILERS, BUT NOT REALLY. Jack Taylor has been thrown out of The Guard in this first of a series of eight books, and I intend to read them all. This is a short book, about 300 pages, but then all of the books in the series are about this length. Jack is now a finder, and he is a drinker. He has very few friends and one of them is, guess what, a bartender. Jack is hired by a gorgeous single mom to prove that her deceased daughter was not a suicide. By the time the story is finished, a child abuser has been identified and dealt with, JT has quit drinking twice, he's bedded the mom, his two friends are dead, he's gone to London for a year, and he has just returned to Dublin, and sits at his new pub. I'm not sure about the daughter - was she real? was she a suicide? if she was murdered who did it? is mom a cop? (I have to re-reread the last 20 pages which I thought I understood, but in writing this review it is abundantly clear to me that's not the case). Really like the whole Irish thing in this book, done very well, feel like I'm there.
pescatello on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Not nearly as good as the reviews would have you believe. Just ok
msf59 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
According to this author there are no private eyes in Ireland ,so what Jack Taylor, a hard-drinking ex-cop, does is look for things. In this case he is hired by a distraught woman , to look into the "questionable" suicide of her daughter and of course this leads him into some down-right nasty places. You might be thinking, another drunken, tortured antihero? Tired and cliched, right? Well wrong, because this fine crime novelist has managed to put a fresh face on this well-traveled genre. His prose is fast, lean and lyrical at times and who couldn't love a broken hero who has a passion for books that equals ours! This is only book one and I'll be back for the rest, you can bet on it!
karen_o on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'm amazed by all the high ratings and positive reviews for this book. This one definitely received the "Dorothy Parker rating" from me as I did, quite literally, throw it across the room when I was done. A very rare occurence from me, especially with a library book!The fault could, of course, be entirely mine. Maybe I just don't care for a main character who is an uber_alcoholic; maybe I'm just not that fond of esoteric poetry; maybe I hated it because there was no freaking mystery! Whatever the reason, I can't for the life of me understand why this is on some short-list for Best Mystery of the Decade and I will definitely NOT be looking for the sequel.Despite the few chuckles I got along the way -- and I admit there were a few -- I won't be looking for either a sequel or a backlist. If it were possible, this book would get a negative 1 rating for me. Can't remember the last time I let a book land on the floor.
LisaMaria_C on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is hard-boiled private detective with an Irish lilt--and alcoholic slur. Jack Taylor was once in the Garda Siochana--the Irish police--but self-destructed with the aid of drink. As he himself describes his life and behavior, "I could say it was the booze, but that's not true. There's a self-destruct button in me. I keep returning to it." He does--throughout the book, and the novel is as much about that--in fact more about that--than his investigation of a young teen who seemingly committed suicide. The book is set in Galway, where, kicked off the force, Jack works intermittently as a "finder." As he puts it: There are no private eyes in Ireland. The Irish wouldn't wear it. The concept brushes perilously close to the hated "informer"... What I began to do was find things. This is written first person with great style and voice. Somehow it kept me sympathetic and rooting for Jack despite him being a screwup. And the ending involves a frequent, even cliche element in hard-boiled detective fiction that usually is a deal breaker, and in a strange way it's because Jack is so damaged, it comes off less cold-blooded than it usually would. Jack's voice, the overall pacing and short chapters full of snappy dialogue made this a fast read at one sitting and left me feeling I wouldn't mind more, despite this being that dark and cynical blend you find in hard-boiled fiction that usually leaves me cold. But there's a wit and humor in the narrator that somehow made that darkness bearable.
kanata on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Where has this author been hiding from me?! Unique prose, a wonderful hard Irish character that now has me eager to search down everything with him in it.
cindysprocket on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I am ready to go back for more of Jack Taylor. What I found very interesting was the way the book was printed.
markatread on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I read 27 books in 2008; this was the best one I read. The mystery is not the primary focus of the book. The book tells us the story of the hero, Jack Taylor, who just happens to be hired to prove a woman's daughter did not commit suicide. It is the telling of his story that is in fact the purpose of the book. He is not a particularly fascinating person nor has his life been a fascinating life, yet the author's ability to tell Jack's story is fascinating. Many of the other characters in the book, including his mother, his best friend (who dies), his new wannabe best friend and his new girlfriend, all are painful attachments that remind him of the isolation and hoplessness he feels. But as in so many great tragedies, he knows, and we learn, that the person who is most responsible for the pain and isolation he feels is himself. This is not a feel good book where the solving of the mystery reassures the reader that all is well in the world. But it is a great book, one where you can feel the blood coursing through the veins of Jack Taylor.Other mystery series started off well with great hero's or at least one's that could be felt and recoginized a being truly human, even if they were fictional characters. Only to then become caricatures of themselves in later books as the need to continue telling some kind of story trapped the author into repeating the same story over and over. Other author's were not able to solve the mystery of how to have a such a flawed hero and have the story continue to resonanat each time. James Lee Burke and Ian Rankin were not able to do so. The story remains the same for the most part, lots of really bad guys; one good guy; good guy wins in spite of his flaws. But at least in the beginning, Ken Bruen has written a great book about his hero. One that will resonant over time.
bcquinnsmom on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Rarely, if ever, do I give a series opener 5 stars, but I just couldn't help myself. I started this book last night, stayed up way too late and finished it and was totally blown away. What a great book; what a great author. I would recommend this to anyone looking for something different in the mystery field, but with a caution: the plot isn't the central focus here -- it is most definitely the characters, especially that of Jack Taylor, the main character. Jack Taylor lives in Galway, Ireland, is a serious alcoholic and has lost his job with the Gardia. He has set himself up as a private detective, knows his is prone to self-destruction, has issues with his mother, and may be one of the most darkly-tormented individuals in crime fiction. But on the other hand, he turns to reading and poetry for comfort and has a soft spot for people he truly cares about. His office a pub, he gets involved in the case of a suicidal teen whose mother hires him to prove that her daughter's death was murder rather than self-inflicted. The only real lead he has is that she worked in a place with other girls, a few of whom have also committed suicide. But as I noted above, the plot is not the real story here, so this novel shouldn't be read for the mystery storyline. Jack Taylor stands out as an incredibly fascinating character, one for whom you can't help but feel sorry. The other characters surrounding him really help to draw out Jack's personality; they are also very well drawn. And the writing ...the book is divided into very short chapters that don't always have very much to say, but what's there is to the point and absolutely necessary. I love how the author is able to be very understated yet can get Jack's story out just as if Jack was a real-life, personal friend and the author's telling you all about him. The style is very original; sparse, but yet packs a punch. I definitely, most highly recommend this book and plan to read all of the Jack Taylor series here shortly. A great read!
swl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I think I should have read this before another in the series - it give some backstory for later - but on the other hand I'm not sure it matters. What did matter, and what I should have done from the first, was look up a bit about the garda; the information did help me appreciate the text more. OTOH, there are dozens of references (irish references, authors, etc.) that I did not look up; I had to accept that some were beyond me and I would just accept them on faith. Feels just a little like cheating - I might now compulsively wiki it all. :)As with the Magdalen Martyrs - and I expect with KB's books I read in the future - I felt at peace every moment of reading this book which is a strange contrast to its landscape of addiction, thumping repeatedly on rock bottom. SUCH compassion for people (and contempt where it's deserved); such exquisite revelations in such few words. All the questions it left rattling around in my head...and this with me a not-normally high-thinking individual...the relationship of violence, justice, personal adequacy, and faith/redemption or more accurately grace. Yes! That's it, the word I want to use to sum up my feelings about KB - he drags grace around with him, perhaps unwillingly.favorite lines..."I sat in the living room, finishing the beer. I didn't really want to put wine down on top but thought, "Fuckit." Which is the short version of the Serenity Prayer.""Sleep gave grudgingly and with conditions.""What I knew...was if I drank, chaos reigned. I was no longer under any illusion. Yet I'd have given anything to crack the seal on a bottle of Scotch and fly."
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
After watching four episodes of Ken Bruen’s Jack Taylor on Netflix, I thought I’d take a crack at reading the first of the books in the series, The Guards. Unlike the DCI Banks series, based on the novels by Peter Robinson, the TV version was far more enjoyable than the book. Despite glowing reviews of his books from The New York Times and others, I found Bruen almost unreadable. It was a though he was attempting to emulate some self-styled avant-garde artist, using a bizarre format that was more annoying than innovative. Ridiculously short “chapters,” vertical lists that replaced standard, comma-spaced series, arbitrary capitalization, and bastardized paragraphing all made it impossible to just settle in and enjoy a good read. In addition, he introduces characters without ever really developing them, and his use of Irish dialect and cryptic references may by “authentic,” but does nothing but mystify the reader. (In contrast, Peter Robinson captures the essence of Yorkshire, whose spoken words are almost unintelligible, while managing not to bewilder the ordinary reader.) Having a unique writing style doesn’t necessarily translate into something worth reading. If the TV series is any indication, Bruen could conjure up some enjoyable stories without forcing the reader into a maze of “innovative” literary gymnastics.
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Bruen is the Byron of mystery novels.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you like mysteries whose heroes are Irish drunks, you'll love this, because the writing is excellent. LLL
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