“The Killing of the Tinkers” is a lonely book.
I used to read a fair amount of crime fiction. A lot, actually. In the last years I've found myself reading less of it, and in the last years I find that the novels I give up on the soonest are crime novels. Why? Well. For several reasons. For starters the term "noir" is being used today as something of a buzzword. It’s used with the same promiscuity as the snack food industry uses ketchup. I’ve lost count on the number of books I’ve given up on because of that. I don’t want to read an author that just likes to play a noir game. I want an author that really pays attention to reality and logic. Ken Bruen is one of the happy few that despite a few wobbles, and missteps, has been able to avoid tumbling into oblivion (I’m still reading the early Bruen. I’m still withholding judgment on the late Bruen).
After having a taste of Jack Taylor in "The Guards", I was ready for some more. Ken Bruen has a noir writing style that perfectly captures the flavour of the local underground in which the characters live, including the drugs that often exist but are rarely written about in mainstream fiction. Ken Bruen is stylistically in a class of his own. Right from the first page, Bruen hits a faultless noir mood and doesn’t let go until the very last page. The book is full of despair and it takes a special author to be able to find something beautiful and honest in such unrelenting despair, and Bruen is the guy to do it.
If Jack Taylor is your run-of-the-mill detective, what isn’t definitely standard, is Bruen's prose. Not only are you hammered on the head with the Queen’s English, but Bruen has a unique writing style in which he sometimes uses poetry that fits the prose pitch-perfect, even in the middle of a paragraph, or when using a list. Raw poetical prose at its finest.
“The Killing of the Tinkers” isn’t overly concerned with detailing the detection process, and the mysteries are actually easily solved, but that's beside the point. Noir is all-pervasive throughout the book. And maybe that’s why Jack Taylor drinks so much, maybe to stop himself from seeing, not only the worst parts of the world around him, but also himself.
As I said in another review, Bruen is an acquired taste.