St. Martin's, Jan 2003, 23.95, 304 pp.
In Galway, Ireland, Ann Henderson visits finder (there are no private detectives in this country) Jack Taylor in his office, a table at Grogan's Pub. Jack is an alcoholic former Garda who was fired for hitting a VIP. Ann hires Jack to look into the death of her beloved sixteen year old daughter Sarah, ruled a suicide. Ann does not believe her daughter would leave her so alone in life and then there was the anonymous phone call insisting the teen was drowned.
Jack asks his partner Catherine Bellingham to do some computer research. Cathy learns that the victim worked at Planters where two other young girls also killed themselves and that the manager plays golf with the Garda superintendent and hires police guards as moonlighters. As he digs deeper two thugs beat up Jack, warning him to back off, but he recognizes the shoes as belonging to the Garda. Jack continues his inquiries while other incidents occur, but whether it is the alcohol providing false courage or just Ann encouraging him, he refuses to quit until he uncovers the truth of what happened to Sarah.
THE GUARDS is a terse crime thriller that grips the audience from the onset. Readers will like the lead character, though many will prefer he give up the booze, but then readers wouldn't know Jack. Though some personal subplots explain Jack, they also take away from the fast-paced story line that will remind the audience of the 1930s detectives as Ken Bruen provides an engaging urban noir that hijacks readers from start to finish.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner