A man who's long used up his nine lives, Ken Bruen's Galway-based private investigator Jack Taylor carries the demons of doubt, drink and death with him around a city that's too full of memories for him to find peace. 'Sanctuary' opens with Taylor getting ready to move to America - until he is contacted by a killer with two Gardaí, a nun, a judge and a child on a list. And so the promise of a new life is postponed as Taylor tries to piece the clues together while keeping his finger off the self-destruct button. He's not sure which will prove harder.

If you're someone who likes a story which doesn't allow pauses for breath, then 'Sanctuary' could be the book for you - but be warned: power loses out to pace. While Taylor is an engrossing character with excellent wisecracks and comebacks, too often here Bruen tries to break the narrative speed record when a slower approach would've added to the twists and shocks which he must face. More pages can be a good thing.

Bruen sprinkles 'Sanctuary' with plenty of observations about contemporary Ireland and a move from hardboiled territory to social realism (like George Pelecanos) would challenge him more as a writer and invite a new audience in the process. Those arriving for the first time to the world of Taylor could find themselves sufficiently intrigued to seek out past adventures (the references to old cases are very clever) and hoping that both he and his creator can grow together in the future. Perhaps that trip across the Atlantic is just what both of them need.

Harry Guerin