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The Guards

(Jack Taylor #1)

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  5,751 ratings  ·  578 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 2004 by Dingle (first published 2001)
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Faranae As said by others, the author is literally from Galway himself. It may help to know that the Jack Taylor series is specifically capturing the early 90…moreAs said by others, the author is literally from Galway himself. It may help to know that the Jack Taylor series is specifically capturing the early 90s in Ireland, and I note from your profile you are 24 years old, and so you were not alive yet at that time. Attitudes have probably changed since then, and there may also be or have been differences between the west and elsewhere. (less)

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Average rating 3.85  · 
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Aug 19, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 5000-2020
This was different. Interestingly different!

The main character, Jack Taylor, is the usual damaged soul, sacked from the police and working in a type of private investigator role. He is more than usually damaged, being a chronic alcoholic inclined to go on benders which take him out of society for anything up to a week at a time. His attempts to stay sober are well meant but it is obvious he is never going to make it on his own.

Since the narrative is told in the first person the reader gets a lot
James Thane
Oct 07, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: crime-fiction
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
Mar 08, 2011 rated it did not like it
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
Aug 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This had an unusual writing style that I enjoyed. It was relatively short, so a quick read. Not a murder mystery, but more a character driven story. Jack Taylor is a raging alcoholic, but there’s still goodness in him. I will be reading another in this series just to see what has angered Jack so badly.
Mar 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Minty McBunny
Mar 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Sep 30, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This is the second time I read the first book in a series that I had grown to really enjoy because of the TV version.

And, this is the second time I was disappointed. Every thing about THE GUARDS was sad--Jack Taylor, the people, the situations, the structure of the book--it was depressing!

I've not been lucky enough in life to make it to Ireland, but I'll bet it is beautiful and the people are wonderful.
I've heard about this series for ages and was really glad to see the novel offered for kindle by Endeavour Press. There is a mystery involved with this start to the Jack Taylor series but the fascination is more with the character Jack Taylor himself. The mystery tends to take a bit of a back seat in this novel.

Taylor is an alcoholic and this novel does deal with his battle with the bottle to some extent. He is a hard man with a ready temper but also I felt a decent man. I enjoyed the secondary
Mar 11, 2010 rated it did not like it
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
Aug 17, 2010 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
Nancy Oakes
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,
Apr 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Feb 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
May 27, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Apr 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
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)
Ousted from the Guards, Ireland’s police force, Jack Taylor is asked by the mother to look into the supposed suicide of her daughter.

I read the first three of Bruen's books together: The Guards, The Killing of the Tinkers and The Magdalen Martyrs.

I found myself needing to read these books together to see what would happen with Jack. There are references in them I know I didn’t quite understand, being American, but I could feel my Irish friends nodding in the background The character of Jack may
This is my first time reading Ken Bruen and I have watch Jack Taylor tv show and enjoyed it alot. I loved this first book in the series The Guards and it gave a great background to Jack as a character. The only down fall I found was the murder took a back set and we got more information about Jack struggle with alcoholics, which in itself was an interesting read.
Bill Lynas
Aug 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
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. ...more
Eva Müller
Sep 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Guards by Ken Bruen is my first exposure to Bruen's writing, which was convenient as it is his first Jack Taylor mystery. I'd watched the TV series. Iain Glen plays Jack Taylor and now, having read the first book, he did an excellent job.
Taylor is an ex-Garda (the story is set in Ireland), who was drummed out for bad behaviour and now he works as an independent investigator. Well, he actually spends most of his time soaking up booze but he still tries to help people when he can. In this case
Ed [Redacted]
Nov 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Nov 12, 2009 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.
Aug 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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?
reading is my hustle
jack taylor is the deeply flawed, anti-hero in this disjointed mystery series. i can't wait to read the next one b/c galway, jack's running commentary, his bottomless pints, his mother, & his refusal to return his guard jacket. also, he reads & drops author's names that i can't wait to check out. ...more
Michael Martz
May 11, 2018 rated it liked it
'The Guards' is Ken Bruen's first in his Jack Taylor series. Its setting is Galway, Ireland and 'stars' Jack Taylor, ex-police (Guard or Garda) and current big-time alkie. He claims to be the only private detective in Ireland and supposedly excels in 'finding stuff'. He's approached by a mother to investigate the suicide of her daughter, which she insists was instead a murder.

I enjoy Bruen's writing, especially the dialogue and Irish colloquialisms, and the plot is OK. However, a couple things
Jan 05, 2009 rated it it was ok
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
Feb 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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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

Other books in the series

Jack Taylor (1 - 10 of 16 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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