Green Hell
Ken Bruen
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Buy *Green Hell (Jack Taylor)* by Ken Bruenonline

Green Hell (Jack Taylor)
Ken Bruen
Mysterious Press
304 pages
July 2015
rated 4 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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You can run with the big dogs or sit on the porch and bark.
An acquired taste to be sure, but once acquired an addiction. With the voice of Jack Taylor, Bruen barks, loudly. A drunken ex-cop with the National Irish Police Force, Taylor can currently count more enemies than friends from his many years in Galway. And those new acquaintances, like visiting Rhodes scholarship student Boru Kennedy, usually leave or suffer tragic fates for their efforts.

Boru has it in his mind to write about Taylor’s life in addition to his treatise on Becket, a way to supplement his meager income. Taylor has recently rescued the American from a band of thugs, and the young man is grateful for his timely intervention--at least until he has reason to think otherwise. Among his ramblings on a drunken evening, Taylor tells Kennedy about the menace that is Anthony de Burgo, a professor of literature at the University of Galway who has been plundering the naiveté of female students with savage disregard, untouchable for his connections to those in power. Taylor plans to do something about it: “Justice is rarely delivered through ordinary channels.”

Boru falls under the spell of Galway’s most notorious rogue, picking up the dissolute's bad habits as they while away the hours in alcoholic banter. Jack’s spiraling self-destruction is still fascinating to a foreigner impressed by his new friend’s erudition and encyclopedic knowledge of literature and current cultural references, a unique blend of cynicism and sophistication with more than a touch of regret. With a list of Jack’s former friends and partners in hand--making lists another way Boru has begun to mimic Taylor--Kennedy goes from one to another, reeling from their reactions, each harboring painful memories. He’s seductive, is Jack, until Boru makes a fatal mistake and is cast aside without apology.

Left to his own devices, Jack continues his solitary existence, counting the deaths and outrages peppering the news, pontificating on the demise of civilization, binge-watching his favorite TV shows and imbibing his preferred brand of whiskey and/or whatever chemical is available. Everything changes when a Goth girl called Emerald brings news of a tragic turn of events, drawing Taylor back into his obsession with meting out justice to the professor at the University of Galway. The situation has suddenly turned dire, one more maddening injustice in the unfair battle to right the wrongs of a brutal world: “Evil is never new, simply a different shade.” The lush green of the legendary Ireland has turned dark, polluted with the evil intentions and greed of mankind, the warriors for good either weather-beaten and soul-damaged or the new breed of Goth-costumed creatures waging vigilante warfare.

For a short novel, Green Hell is surprisingly powerful. Taylor runs uncomfortably close to despair, sorely in need of a friend stronger than his compulsion to alienate others. A noble soul crippled by self-hate, he is unable to articulate a terribly wounded spirit, booze his longtime lover become tormentor. Taylor’s life has shrunken with his expectations, a harsh taskmaster pounding with relentless intent, in need of regeneration and that elusive commodity, hope. Emerald’s intervention just might be enough to stem the tide, at least for now.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Luan Gaines, 2015

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