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The Guards (Jack Taylor #1)

3.89  ·  Rating Details ·  3,789 Ratings  ·  366 Reviews
Still stinging from his unceremonious ouster from the Garda Síochána—the Guards, Ireland’s police force—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. In his sober moments Jack aspires to become Ireland’s best private investigator, not to mention its first—Irish history, full of betrayal an ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published January 19th 2004 by Minotaur Books (first published 2001)
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Apr 16, 2011 Pamela rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I found this book to be




(Insert a random passage from some other mystery novel here.)

The main character is the jaw-dropping original (yeah, right)




(Insert lyrics from a random song here.)

The writer's style of using lists is




(Insert more random quotes here for no discernable reason other than to pump up the word count.)

I will be reading more of this author when

pigs fly

Hell freezes over


Never mind. You g
James Thane
Jack Taylor has been thrown out of the Irish police force--the Garda Siochana--because his drinking got out of control. Ireland has virtually no private investigators because of the cultural abhorrence of informers, so Jack becomes the next best thing. He is an expert at finding things, that is when he can climb off of his bar stool long enough to take a job. Then one day a beautiful woman walks into the Galway pub where Jack hangs his hat and asks to hire him.

The woman, whose name is Ann, has r
Apr 02, 2015 Melki rated it it was amazing
Shelves: crime-fiction
See that lover standing
Staring at the ground
He's looking for the real thing
Lies were all he found

You can get the real thing
It will only cost a pound
Down where the drunkards roll
Down where the drunkards roll

If you're looking for chills and thrills or a sharp, investigative police procedural, this is NOT the book you're looking for. This is more a character study of a tormented man in constant struggle with his demons. It's slow-paced with virtually no action, and the crimes are solved almost b
Minty McBunny
Mar 13, 2014 Minty McBunny rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014, march-2014
At first I found this book




but then in spite of myself, I started to like Jack, warts and all, and had to smile at his affectations and his horrible, flawed behaviors.

I felt like the story was more of a character study than a mystery or thriller, but I liked it that way. What went on in Jack's head and in his life was more interesting to me than the mystery he was investigating. Jack's internal struggles and interpersonal relationships were more compelling than many
Jan 07, 2015 Josh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the third time I've read THE GUARDS and it just keeps getting better.

Jack Taylor, dishonorably discharged from the guards after having physically assaulted a member of high standing succumbs further to the allure of the drink; that bottomless pit of clouded reality seen through shot and pint glasses alike.

It's this downfall that leads to his new profession, albeit and informal one - that of a private detective. His office; the pub. His clientele; the downright desperate. Enter Ann, an
Apr 08, 2008 Brooke rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It isn't often that you get to read a book by someone who writes in a completely original manner, yet is still intelligible. Ken Bruen has such an interesting writing style and gets so much across with so few words, that I was kept turning pages just from enjoying his style. That said, the stories are also great in the manner of hard-boiled ex-cop alcoholic down-and-out private eyes. His other book that I have read, The White Trilogy, was a little harder to get into but worthwhile once I was the ...more
Apr 29, 2015 Paul rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A quirky little novel. It took me a little while to get used to the style, but I gradually warmed up to it and became engrossed, pretty much savoring every word near the end. There's no doubt Lawrence Block's Matt Scudder is the major influence here, and Bruen gives a nod to a host of American crime writers at the start of each chapter. I can see why a lot of people would be divided about his technique, but I would certainly read more of the Jack Taylor series. It's sparse, flippant and brooding ...more
Jan 06, 2013 Ann rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked it. It is quirky and dark and poetic. Set in Galway Ireland, it has the flavor and language of the Irish culture which I find fascinating. It is a tale of addiction, alcohol and violence but it also has a poignant feel to the characters expressed in the poetry vignettes at the beginning of each rather short chapter.
(view spoiler)
May 31, 2009 Johnny rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good book. By an obviously skilled writer. But flawed in its choices. The book has a great reputation, a Shamus Award Winner, but I don't think I saw what those other readers saw. To me, it was good, not great.

More Bukowski than Chandler. To call this a Private Eye novel is a stretch, as his profession (like his "case") is an afterthought. I liked that aspect of it. To put the genre story on the fringes and to let it be about something else.

But the book was just too thin. Don't let the 280 pag
Mar 11, 2010 Steve rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The blurbs on the back of Ken Bruen's novel The Guards are impressive: Boston Teran, James Crumley, and T. Jefferson Parker, who all weigh in with thumbs up. And these are wonderful writers who have written fine books that I really admire. So I'm mystified over their enthusiasm. In contrast, what I found in The Guards was a loosely told story about a drunk cop who pretty much stays that way. Oh, there's a story nibbling around the edges regarding some missing women and the bad men who did them i ...more
Tim Niland
Apr 03, 2016 Tim Niland rated it it was amazing
Kicked out of The Guards (the Irish Police force) for habitual drunkenness, Jack Taylor has blundered into becoming an unlicensed private investigator in Galway, in the west of Ireland. Contacted by the mother of a young girl who supposedly killed herself, Jack blunders into a web of danger and intrigue that he is totally unprepared for, as he tries to understand the true nature of the girl's death. This is the first in the Jack Taylor series, one of my favorites, and I am re-reading it in prepa ...more
Alan Chen
Feb 18, 2015 Alan Chen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
(3.5) stars

The Guards is great in many areas: Jack Taylor is a memorable character, he's fully fleshed out, his friends are interesting, and the scene: Galway, Ireland is perfect for a gritty, ex-cop turned private dick. The only problem, and it's a major one, is that as a mystery novel it sucks. I like my mysteries to keep me guessing until the end. I want twists in the plot, canvassing for evidence, interviews with witnesses and everyone to be the possible murderer. This isn't that kind of mys
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Feb 18, 2011 Lisa (Harmonybites) rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Hard-boiled Mystery Fans
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 ...more
Ed [Redacted]
Jack Taylor is the only PI in Ireland. The Irish don't really go in for that PI stuff, too close to snitching. Taylor pretty much has to do it, however, because he is a non-functioning alcoholic who was booted from the Guarda (the national Irish police force) for chronic drunkenness (That would take some doing you would think).

This novel is ostensibly a story of Taylor investigating the "suicide" of the daughter of his client. In fact this story is all about Taylor, his alcoholism and the diffi
Herb Hastings
Apr 21, 2013 Herb Hastings rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The writing is crisp and clean. His ability to weave a very deep story with few words reminds me of Cormac McCarthy. This book is the first in a series featuring Jack Taylor a disgraced former policeman battling booze and personal demons. He sounds like a dozen other broken detectives but he is filtered through modern Irish culture. Anyone raised Irish Catholic will feel the rhythm of the language and taste the grief and the guilt that many of us carry around.

The plot revolves around Taylor's s
Are you searching for a proper crime-novel? One where the main character gets a case, starts investigating it, finds clues and in the end solves the case. The main character may be slightly distracted by marital or other relationship troubles and/or a traumatic past but the main focus is clearly the criminal investigation. In that case this is not the book for you.
However, if you don't mind a protagonist who spends most of the time drinking, quoting various books (divided – in my case – into 'by
Feb 26, 2009 S.D. rated it it was amazing
Jack Taylor is a former Guard on Ireland's police force. It's tough to drag himself away from the bottle long enough to take a case. But he's a bit of a softie and sometimes his curiosity gets the best of him, especially when it seems that somehow the Guards are trying to prevent him from investigating the suicide of a young woman. I usually steer away from the plots involving the theme of the drunk cop or former cop. But there is something about the way Bruen writes that drags you into Taylor's ...more
Apr 19, 2015 Ammar rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first book in the Jack Taylor series. The Guards aka the Garda. The Irish Police.

I loved the way of writing
for example

Three murders.
My heart being hammered
Tons of cash

Jack is a book reader. a lover of crime fiction and thrillers. He quotes them. and he is a heavy drinker. The typical Irish man. Silent and roaring.

He gets discharged from the Guards. a 16 years old girl Sara commits suicide or was she killed and dumped in the pond. the suicide rate in Galway has risen. Is the
Aug 10, 2010 Nick rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mysteries
Almost pure dialog and action, this is the tale of a shit-faced Galway drunk, drummed out of the Guards (an Irish police force, I gather) and reduced to a sort of half-assed detective. Yes, shades of Ian Rankin, with a bit of THE DEPARTED underneath --- the fatalism of a drunk and an Irishman, applied the hunt for a creepy pedophile that is somehow tied up with both criminals and cops. My kind of mystery. Literary allusions, too. What more could you want?
R.E. Conary
May 19, 2015 R.E. Conary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Through a pint of Guinness, darkly!

Ex-Garda (Irish policeman) Jack Taylor sees his world "through a glass, darkly" -- a pint glass of Guinness to be specific. He's a revolving alcoholic, not a recovering one like J. A. Jance's Seattle Det. J. P. Beaumont, or Lawrence Block's Matthew Scudder. But it's early days and THE GUARDS is the first in a series that features Jack Taylor as a "finder" -- "private detective" being too close to "informer." Like early Scudder, Taylor works off the books and ou
Jack Taylor has been kicked out the Gardia and submerged himself into a non-stop series of drinking binges. Making some kind of living as a “person who finds things” -- private eyes being too tinged in Ireland with the suspicion of being an informant, he is approached by Anne Henderson who wants Jack to investigate her daughter Sarah’s ostensible suicide. (“They say you’re good because you have nothing else in your life.”)

A cursory look around has Jack convinced it’s no more than that until he g
Jan 06, 2009 Marlowe rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Ah, Ken Bruen. Some writers plagarise, some writers pay homage, some hint and nod and tip the hat. Ken Bruen's characters just go on about other books all the time, whether it's in-character or not.

Eg, "Have you read Jim Thompson's The Killer Inside Me? It's really good."

I don't know how he gets away with it. Well, actually I suspect I do. He has very good pacing, and his books are very short, which accentuates this - so despite being in places tired and pretentious and inauthentic (this novel
Luca Lesi
"Il brandy di dà il respiro e te lo toglie. Ti toglie la stessa aria che ti da. Non solo, devi alzarti sempre prima per bere fino a essere sobrio in tempo per l'apertura dei pub ... Come mai vuole l'aiuto di un alcolizzato ? Lei si alzò, mi rivolse una occhiata dura, rispose : Mi hanno detto che lei è bravo perché non ha nient'altro nella vita. E se ne andò."
Peccato che Jack Taylor,ex poliziotto, nato dalla penna di Ken Bruen, resti soprattutto un alcolizzato mentre intorno a lui e indipendentem
Jun 24, 2014 Fanficfan44 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I selected The Guards after watching the Jack Taylor series on Acorn TV. I really enjoyed the tv show and wanted to see what the books were all about. The novel was very well done, it captured the ravages of Jack’s alcoholism, his introspection, his relationship with his mother and the few he counts as friends. The mystery is almost a side story with the focus really being on Jack, what happens to him and because of him and his actions. Violent scenes with starkly written prose set the scene for ...more
Bill Lynas
Aug 31, 2016 Bill Lynas rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ken Bruen's first novel featuring former policeman Jack Taylor is full of sharp dialogue & humour. At times there are too many book & music references, but it's good enough to make me want to read the next book in the series.
Nov 12, 2009 Dan rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition

An ocean of drink and a small chaser of plot.

Not really a mystery in the usual sense since the culprit (well the one responsible for the ostensible crime) is evident early on. The protagonist spends much of the novel drinking, recovering from drinking, or attempting to refrain from drinking. The reader's interest in this subject will determine their enjoyment of the book.

Don't be fooled by the positive blurb by James Crumley on the back; The Guards is nowhere near as good as any of his books.
Don Winslow ha inserito questo libro nella sua personale classifica delle cinque top crime novel: avendo letto tre titoli su cinque, e avendoli trovati più che notevoli, mi sono fidato del consiglio di Don e ho cercato questo romanzo di Ken Bruen, che in italiano si chiama molto banalmente ‘Prima della notte,’, mentre in originale è ‘The Guards’, essendo Garda la polizia irlandese, di fama alquanto dubbia.

Ho fatto bene ad ascoltare il Don.
Mi sono trovato immerso in un noir in pie
Filippo Bossolino
Considerato uno dei migliori cinque noir di sempre da parte di Don Winslow. Così me lo sono procurato. Senza mai averne sentito parlare prima, né dell'autore, né del romanzo. Ritengo il giudizio precedente esagerato, a meno che la traduzione in italiano non lo abbia demolito. Capiamoci, Prima della notte non è affatto male; storia interessante, ben scritta e alcol tema quasi centrale… Peccato che sia un po' inconcludente; io penso che l'autore non abbia voluto scrivere nella maniera più classica ...more
Felix Zilich
Jan 29, 2014 Felix Zilich rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime, irish-luck
“В Ирландии нет частных детективов. Ирландцы такого не потерпят. Почему-то для них частный детектив – почти то же самое, что стукач. Здесь можно делать почти всё, но стучать нельзя… Я не выходил на улицу и не кричал “Господь решил сделать меня сыщиком” – ему было совершенно плевать. Ведь есть Господь, и есть его ирландский вариант… Просто из-за моей прошлой карьеры считалось, что у меня есть связи. Что я знаю, как все происходит. Иногда меня разыскивали и просили помочь. Иногда мне везло и я пом ...more
Oct 15, 2016 Dublinguy rated it it was amazing
"You have a rare gift, my friend."
"Do I?"
"You never probe or pry into a person's affairs."
"Thank you."
Not much of a recommendation for an investigator.

To celebrate the recent release of the 12th book in the Jack Taylor series by one of my absolute favourite writers, Irish crime/noir writer Ken Bruen, I have decided to reread all the books in the series. I have already read the first 6 or 7 when they came out many years ago but have not kept up with the last 5 or 6 in the series. So to remedy th
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Ken Bruen, born in Galway in 1951, is the author of The Guards (2001), the highly acclaimed first Jack Taylor novel. He spent twenty-five years as an English teacher in Africa, Japan, S.E. Asia and South America. His novel Her Last Call to Louis Mac Niece (1997) is in production for Pilgrim Pictures, his "White Trilogy" has been bought by Channel 4, and The Guards is to be filmed in Ireland by De ...more
More about Ken Bruen...

Other Books in the Series

Jack Taylor (1 - 10 of 12 books)
  • The Killing Of The Tinkers (Jack Taylor, #2)
  • The Magdalen Martyrs (Jack Taylor, #3)
  • The Dramatist (Jack Taylor, #4)
  • Priest (Jack Taylor, #5)
  • Cross (Jack Taylor, #6)
  • Sanctuary (Jack Taylor, #7)
  • The Devil (Jack Taylor, #8)
  • Headstone (Jack Taylor, #9)
  • Purgatory (Jack Taylor, #10)
  • Green Hell (Jack Taylor, #11)

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