Quick review: Ken Bruen’s The Devil

Ken Bruen, in his eighth Jack Taylor novel, pits his hard-drinking Irish protagonist against a worth adversary:  the devil himself.

Replete with priests, cops, felons ,friends and old girlfriends, the story starts with Jack’s failed attempt to emigrate to the US.   In the airport bar he meets Kurt, a well-dressed, smooth talking man… and by the end of the chapter, we are convinced:  here is evil.

I groaned, but kept reading.  Bruen’s voice is engaging, easy to follow, and very personal.  The reader feels very intimately attuned to Jack Taylor.  With each twist of the story (oh no, the good Samaritan has been killed!) and the zeroing in on people Taylor cares about (the tinker, the priest, the lesbian friend who marries a landowner for security), I became more deeply involved, more entangled in the story, all the while thinking, “this cannot end well.”  Either Taylor kills the devil – very unlikely – or the devil kills him.

I won’t ruin the surprise, except to say that Bruen does an excellent job with the resolution.  Typically stories that involve the supernatural go one of two ways – either the protagonist is fooled and there’s nothing supernatural involved, so it’s a letdown at the end.  Or, it is supernatural, and it’s so dang unbelievable, it’s a letdown.  The Devil is letdown-free.


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