The Searcher, by Tana French

Eight stars

Tana French is back with another unique novel, her second consecutive standalone. Those not familiar with her work may have a little trouble grasping everything, but long-time fans will see a glimmer of something that only French can provide in her writing. A retired cop decides to settle in rural Ireland, hoping to put his work life and failed marriage behind him. However, when someone approaches him to help locate a young man that no one around town seems to care has gone missing, Cal Hooper takes up the cause, only to realise there is more to the story than meets the eye. Tana French is masterful with this slow mystery, which is full of rich narrative but never in a hurry to get there, which is delightful for a reader such as myself. The book is aptly named The Searcher, as it is both Cal and the reader who seek to find their home way throughout this piece. Highly recommended to the patient reader and those who love a good dose of French’s Irish storytelling!

Cal Hooper spent many years working for the Chicago PD as a detective. However, upon his retirement, he’s discovered that not only is he unsure what to do with himself, but that his marriage has disintegrated for many reasons. On a whim, Cal purchases a home and moves to rural Ireland—the fictitious town of Ardnakelty—where everyone is as local as can be. Cal bridges the divide as best he can with the locals, some of whom are interested in his backstory, while others want him to mind his business, so they can pry into his.

When Cal is approached by Trey Reddy to help locate the tween’s older brother, it seems like something a little too taxing on his retirement. However, Trey is insistent and takes things to a new level before Cal agrees to poke around and ask a few questions. How could Brendan Reddy, spry at nineteen, have up and disappeared without anyone taking notice? Furthermore, how could no one take an interest in this at all? Cal soon learns that no one really cares much about the kids from his family, a household of scholastic truants if ever there was one.

As Cal digs a little deeper, he discovers many possible outcomes as to what might have happened to Brendan, though no clear and single option that supersedes the others. Surrounded by the bucolic countryside, Cal makes some progress and discovers a thread that opens many other doors. There is certainly something to this missing individual, but it will take effort and a passion to bring it all to light. Uncovering something dark and troubling, Cal discovers that while no one care about Brendan Reddy, there are many who will act violently about anyone who dares press the matter.

I remember when I discovered Tana French and her writing. It was certainly much different than anything else I had read in a series and police procedural. While some bemoan the tangential style of writing, I relish it, as it sticks out and makes the reader take note. There are so many small things buried in the narrative that French provides the reader, though they cannot and will not be spoon-fed. It is the reader’s responsibility to pledge their dedication to join the adventure.

Cal Hooper is a wonderful protagonist, with his backstory and character development on offer throughout this piece. Choosing to reinvent himself after a life in Chicago, Cal finds himself the new and untrusted individual as soon as he arrives. Feeling as though he is sometimes on Mars, Cal must forge friendships and see how he can make himself approachable, which has him reflecting back on the foibles he made with this own family. Struggling not to push too hard, yet also be likeable, Cal sets himself up to succeed while helping a family no one thinks about at any point in their day.

The handful of key secondary characters is helpful to better understand the larger story. French injects them throughout, providing unique and usually Irish personalities, some of whom clash significantly with Cal Hooper. French leaves the reader feeling as though they, too, are in the Irish back country, with personalities and linguistic quirks. Some of these folks offer the reader insight into the larger plot, while others seek to impede with progress however they can.

This is a wonderful story throughout. While I would not call it complex, it is far from simple. The narrative develops slowly and the reader must face that head-on throughout the reading experience. There are times for plot development and those for character enhancement. This is not a quick read for the beach of aboard the plane, though some readers think they can do that. Rather, it takes time and that should not be rushed. The reading experience is always enhanced with paced and contemplative understanding of Tana French. It is the impatient reader who usually tosses their hands in the air and says French is not up to the caliber of others in the genre.

Kudos, Madam French, for another winning novel. I am always eager to see what you have to say and how you get it across.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: