Jack Taylor is sober and down to five cigarettes a day. He’s as near to clean living as he’s been in years. When a former dealer asks him to help investigate the death of his sister, Jack is reluctant to get involved. Then a second student is found dead, her body accompanied by a book of plays by Synge. Reluctantly, Jack starts to probe and prod, but there are dark forces at work in the town and they either want to sign Jack up to their cause or suffer the consequences. Suffering though is what Jack does best.
Ken Bruen’s books are dark and brooding affairs, written in a sparse, engaging literary prose. For me, sometimes the text feels a little too sparse, begging for a little more elaboration, but they are nonetheless engaging, powerful, layered tales. His stories rarely have complex puzzles, they are more structured as unfolding. The Dramatist is no different. In it he demonstrates a keen observational eye, capturing the nuances of Irish society, especially the intricacies of inter-personal relations. There’s a strong sense of place and the plot has some nicely interwoven strands and intertextuality. The resolution of the crimes is relatively straightforward, but that’s hardly the point of his stories: they are about the journey not the destination. Though in The Dramatist, the destination is a powerful punch to the gut, despite it being well signposted. A fine slice of Irish noir.