Archive Reviews: Tana French

For my participation in the Begorrathon aka Reading Ireland Month, my first post is going to be about an Irish crime writer that I’ve enjoyed. I’ve only read three of her books but I do hope to pick up more of them.

The author is Tana French. While she was born in Ireland and lives there now, she has also lived in the United States, Malawi and Italy and she’s not only a talented writer, she’s an actress as well!

She has written six books and they are all crime fiction, based around a squad of detectives working out of a Dublin police station. Not every book involves the same detectives including Rob Ryan, Cassie Maddox,  Frank Mackey, Scorcher Kennedy, with Steven Moran and  Antoinette Conway appearing in several books. The stories all have twists and turns, secrets and lies that have to be unraveled. The plots drew me in and were all real page turners. All three of the books I read were good, solid 4 star books. Here, then, are the reviews that I posted elsewhere, on Livejournal or Goodreads.

The Likeness  (Published 2008)
Apparently this is the second book about the main character, Detective Cassie Maddox but I haven’t read the first one (yet). It doesn’t matter, they made enough references to the previous plot that you get the gist of who she is. I don’t really think i have to read it now (edit to add, but I did! see next review)

Anyway, this book takes place in and around Dublin in present day. A murdered woman is found and she looks to be Cassie’s identical twin though is not. Cassie had not recently been working on the murder squad or the undercover squad after some traumatic events and has to be persuaded to take over the woman’s life to help find the murderer.

The woman lives in a house with four graduate students who may or may not be suspects and Cassie has to find a way to fit in and figure it all out. She does fairly well thanks to both the dead woman’s mobile phone that has a lot of video that was shot of the roomies and information the police extracted about the dead woman’s life from the same roomies. The dead woman is an enigma, however, with no apparent family, friends or past so the murderer might be someone she knew from her former life.

The book is well written and it drew me in. The roommates are not completely drawn out but then, since they are strangers to Cassie and she’s trying to get to know them but not get too close to them, it works. Cassie does get drawn in to their cocoon of a life, a bit, while trying to unearth a murderer. They are all loners, people that don’t quite fit in but found each other and seem to live in their own little world, which, little by little, is developing the cracks that Cassie soon detects and you start having various suspicions along with her. It did keep my interest and the ending, while not a complete surprise, wasn’t quite what I expected either.

In The Woods: (Published 2007)
This is the first of the Murder Squad series by Tana French, but the second one I’ve read. One summer night in 1984, three children decide to camp in the woods near their home. Something happens, two of them disappear and one is left horrified but can’t remember anything. Jump forward 20 years and Dublin detective Rob Ryan has to solve a murder of a 12 year old girl, killed in the same wooded area. He and his partner, Cassie Maddox, dig for clues and have to find out if this murder is related to the past or not.

Rob becomes obsessed as the past haunts him and sends him into a tailspin. It affects his friendship with Cassie and his job. It’s a pretty good story but the issue of the past incident is never resolved which is a bit of a disappointment.

The Secret Place Published 2014
This is the fifth of the Dublin Murder Squad series and my favourite so far. I had a hard time putting this one down. It takes place nominally through the course of one day with flashbacks. A teenage girl from a private girls’ school in Dublin brings a hand made postcard to Detective Stephen Moran, whom she knew from a prior case through her father, Detective Frank Mackey. The postcard says that the writer of it knows who killed a teenage boy from a neighbouring boys’ school over a year ago. It was posted anonymously on a bulletin board in the girls school. The ambitious detective, Moran, teams up with a veteran female detective, somewhat of a lone wolf, Antoinette Conway, to head to the school to figure out what was missed during the original investigation that Conway was involved in.

They spend all day weeding through the web of lies that the teenage girls spin. The girls always trying to either protect someone else, themselves, or implicate someone else for their own reasons. As the detectives slowly peel away the lies and use bits of new, true information that they manage to eke out of the girls, we get flashbacks to the real story. There are two sets of cliques, groups of four girls each who are rival groups. One set of girls are the “popular” girls, with a leader who is in parts bully, controlling and mean and the other set of girls, to which the initial card-bearer belongs, are a close knit group, mainly going their own way from the student society in genera and a bit more on an equal footing with each other than the first group.

The characters and the teenage girl dynamic feels very real and very well written. Tana French has got inside the heads of these girls and if the teenagespeak and slang is a bit annoying, it’s only because that’s exactly how these kids would talk at that age (15/16). The only thing that lost me and which really seemed to have no bearing on anything is a small telekinetic sub-thing which may or may not have been imaginary but which was baffling and either way, served no purpose really.

So there you are, the three books I’ve read by Tana French. I really do hope I get to read more of the series (so many books, so little time!)

The Dublin Murder Squad books

Follow Ms. French: Facebook.  and  Her website.

3 thoughts on “Archive Reviews: Tana French

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