Jack Taylor is walking the delicate edge of a sobriety he doesn't trust when his phone rings. He's in debt to a Galway tough named Bill Cassell, what the locals call a "hard man." Bill did Jack a big favor a while back; the trouble is, he never lets a favor go unreturned.
Jack is amazed when Cassell simply asks him to track down a woman, now either dead or very old, who long ago helped his mother escape from the notorious Magdalen laundry, where young wayward girls were imprisoned and abused. Jack doesn't like the odds of finding the woman, but counts himself lucky that the task is at least on the right side of the law.
Until he spends a few days spinning his wheels and is dragged in front of Cassell for a quick reminder of his priorities. Bill's goons do a little spinning of their own, playing a game of Russian roulette a little too close to the back of Jack's head. It's only blind luck and the mercy of a god he no longer trusts that land Jack back on the street rather than face down in a cellar with a bullet in his skull. He's got one chance to stay alive: find this woman.
Unfortunately, he can't escape his own curiosity, and an unnerving hunch quickly turns into a solid fact: just who Jack's looking for, and why, aren't nearly what they seem.
The Magdalen Martyrs, the third Galway-set novel by Edgar, Barry, and Macavity finalist and Shamus Award-winner Ken Bruen, is a gripping, dazzling story that takes the Jack Taylor series to explosive new heights of suspense.
If not as explosive as The Guards (2003) or The Killing of the Tinkers (2004), Edgar finalist Bruen's third Jack Taylor noir mystery-thriller crackles with his trademark tough-guy bravado. While Taylor struggles to stay on the wagon, he agrees to do a favor for Galway gangster Bill Cassell, who wants him to track down Rita Monroe, one of the martyrs of the title unwed mothers sent into the care of the church and terribly mistreated, often by the nuns in charge of them. Cassell pushes Taylor hard to find Monroe, but Taylor's need for alcohol gets in the way. And as usual in a Bruen novel, his employer's motives aren't what they seem, violence springing naturally out of the disconnect. Along the way, Taylor sleeps with a client's mother, attends a good friend's funeral and loses his entire library. He often seems to float and drift, less driven by his demons than distracted by them. Still, readers will appreciate Bruen's trademark stripped-down noir poetry, his superbly rendered sense of place and his evocative portrait of a person balanced on the razor's edge.