Ken Bruen Analysis


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

With the publication of the first Jack Taylor mystery, The Guards, in 2001, Ken Bruen found broad popular and critical acclaim within the mystery and detective genre. The popularity of this novel in Europe and later in the United States prompted the reissue of several of Bruen’s earlier works; the first three Sergeant Brant novels—A White Arrest (1998), Taming the Alien (1999), and The McDead (2000)—were collected and reissued in the United States as The White Trilogy (2003).

Bruen’s novels are significant for their treatment of two popular detective subgenres. As their protagonist’s penchant for Ed McBain’s novels of the 87th Precinct suggests, the Brant novels are contemporary police procedurals of a particularly dark and gritty nature. The novelty lies in the juxtaposition of the setting (London) and the narrative style, which is heavily influenced by American noir. The Jack Taylor novels are private investigator novels that are also unusual in terms of their setting (Galway), because as the narrator maintains, there are no private investigators in Ireland.

Bruen’s stature as a writer of mystery and detective fiction is reflected in the number of awards and recognitions his works have received. The Guards was an Edgar Award finalist and Shamus Award winner, and several of his other novels have appeared on annual lists of best novels.


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Anderson, Patrick. The Triumph of the Thriller: How Cops, Crooks, and Cannibals Captured Popular Fiction. New York: Random House, 2007. Contains a section on The Guards and Calibre, praising the humor.

Breen, Jon L. “The Police Procedural.” In Mystery and Suspense Writers: The Literature of Crime, Detection, and Espionage, I-II, edited by Robin W. Winks and Maureen Corrigan. New York: Scribner’s, 1998. An article on the police procedural subgenre by the novelist and critic Jon L. Breen.

Bruen, Ken. The Website of Ken Bruen. The author’s Web site includes synopses of his novels and a discussion board.

MacDonald, Craig. Art in the Blood: Crime Novelists Discuss Their Craft. A collection of interviews with contemporary crime novelists that features a substantial interview with Bruen.

Murphy, Paula. “’Murderous Mayhem’: Ken Bruen and the New Ireland.” Clues: A Journal of Detection 24, no. 2 (Winter, 2006): 3-16. An exploration of how Bruen’s Jack Taylor series addresses the preoccupations of postmillennial Ireland.

Swierczynski, Duane. “Through the Looking Glass: A Conversation with Ken Bruen.” Mystery Scene 88 (Winter, 2005): 36-37. An interview with the author about his life and work.