And now for something completely different: no Florida sunshine, no comic caricatures, no whimsical storylines. Galway, Ireland private investigator Jack Taylor is the depressive to Serge Storms' manic. The Killing of the Tinkers, Ken Bruen's second novel featuring the dark musings of alcoholic ex-cop Taylor, is the superb sequel to last year's The Guards. This time out, Taylor is hired by the clan leader of the tinkers, Ireland's iteration of gypsies. Someone is methodically butchering young tinkers and leaving their bodies visible in the town center as a message or a warning. Taylor, a disgraced ex-Garda (Irish police), is well acquainted with the criminal element of Galway, and he is confident that he will arrive at a speedy solution. Then things begin to go to hell in the proverbial hand basket. He is beaten severely and left for dead; he awakens in the hospital with a full complement of cuts and bruises, and all of his front teeth missing. More than this, Taylor is convinced of the murderer's identity. Still, knowing the individual and proving his guilt are two seriously different matters. Like The Guards before it, The Killing of the Tinkers is an edgy, ominous thriller, but its true center is the exploration of the loneliness and desperation of a man who has made one too many wrong choices.

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