Mysterious Book Report HeadstoneHeadstone By Ken Bruen

Mysterious Press, 256 pages, $24.00, ISBN 978-0-80-1212600-9

I’m sitting here in Colorado Springs, munching on Irish soda bread and preparing MBR Number 46, and hey, guess what . . . it’s by one of the outstanding Irish crime fiction writers in the field today.  His name is Ken Bruen, and one of his best and most interesting serial characters is an infamous and much maligned private eye named Jack Taylor, of Galway, Ireland.  The novel is Headstone.

“Evil has many guises and Jack Taylor has encountered many of them,” according to one of the promotional blurbs accompanying the book, but he’s never run across anything like the group that’s known as headstone.  Headstone is an Irish term for a grave marker, or tombstone in America.  When Jack Taylor and two of his associates; one a dealer in illegal pharmaceuticals, the other a lesbian police woman married to the assistant chief of police, each receive a miniature headstone in the mail they’re puzzled.  But when a priest is attacked and nearly beaten to death after getting the same mysterious token, they recognize the threat for what it is.  The next victim is a special needs student, who’s ritualistically and savagely tortured.  As the crimes continue Taylor is drawn ever deeper into the twisted, evil and insane world of the group known as Headstone.  It’s an evil unlike anything Jack Taylor has encountered in his long violent career.

After reading several of Bruen’s novels, I think that they’re his lamentations for an Ireland that is long gone.  If your whole impression of the country is formed by films like The Quiet Man with John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara, Bruen will show you a contemporary scene that unfortunately, is much like our own: drugs, gangs, violence, and failed dreams of wealth.  It’s a world I find fascinating . . . and described in a voice and style given only to Ken Bruen.  If you like yours hard-boiled, Headstone will suit you to a T.


John Dwaine McKenna