Jack is in all sorts of self-inflicted trouble again. He's in hospital, severely affected by a nervous breakdown, after his negligence caused the death of someone very very important to him and his last close friends, when he's bought back from the brink by the kindness of another patient.
On his release Jack returns to his previous life with a new-found determination to avoid drinking and drugs. When his least favourite priest, Father Malachy asks Jack for help in discovering why a local priest was decapitated in his church confessional, Jack falls into that and other investigations but clings to his promise to stay sober.
PRIEST is the fifth novel in the Jack Taylor series and it is the first novel in which Jack is actively reassessing his life and what he really is. He's still an angry and depressed man, but as he has been all the way through this series, he's acutely self-aware and for the first time some of this anger is actually directed squarely at himself. He's angry with the way that Irish society is changing, he's still angry with the Catholic Church and in particular it's attitude to paedophilia and sexual abuse. Whilst PRIEST is part of a series and the reader definitely benefits from reading the early books, firstly because they are universally excellent, but also to see how Jack and the author have moved through a series of phases, PRIEST can be read as a standalone.
If nothing else, you have to admire Ken Bruen for his brutal honesty and his willingness to tackle the confrontational. In PRIEST he is scratching at a lot of scabs, societal and possibly personal.