While my February binge-read of Tana French has reached its end, these mysteries remain some of the best novels I have read in a long while. They pull key aspects of police procedurals with a dash of Irish charm and leave the reader with a sense of completion, after a drawn-out story and systematic solution. Picking up a few months after The Secret Place, French turns the focus onto Detective Antoinette Conway, who came from a single-parent home and whose mixed-race background left her feeling out of place. Working the night shift with partner Stephen Moran, Conway joins him as they investigate an apparent domestic disturbance gone wrong. As they arrive to begin their investigation, Conway and Moran learn a little more about Aislinn Murray. Living alone, she appeared to have been expecting someone, with the table set for a nice meal. Conway soon learns that Aislinn had a new boyfriend, Rory Fallon, who had plans to meet her around the time of her murder. Fallon proves less than sinister during his initial interview, though his timeline for the night of the murder is flimsy enough that he could have turned up and committed the crime before following through with date night story. Turning up the pressure, in hopes of having Fallon spill, Conway gets nowhere and his forced to keep her options open.New avenues turn up potential leads, including that Aislinn apparently become fixated on her father, who disappeared from his family twenty years before. After being encouraged to forge onwards, Conway is left to chase down a gang angle. There is the additional angle as to why Aislinn changed her image a few years ago, dolling herself up and becoming more sociable. As she struggles to piece this case together, Conway receives a visit from her own father, who disappeared when she was little. This interaction is nothing short of a disaster and only serves to exacerbate a sense of being unwanted. Sensing parallels in her own life and Aislinn’s past, Conway takes a new approach and revisits all the information that have on hand. It is only then that the case takes an interesting turn and turns up ideas that were previously hidden from her investigation. Filled with wonderful storytelling and an evolving narrative, French remains on the top of her game in this explosive novel, perfect for series fans and curious folk alike.
All six Dublin Murder Squad novels have proven to be a delight to read, with their winding narratives and strong cast of characters. The dedicated reader will see a loose formula to them, but this is not to say that it presents anything close to ‘cookie cutter’ in nature. Pulling the reader in to learn more about Antoinette Conway was the perfect approach for this novel, as she played a minor role previously and might have left some readers wondering about this slightly abrupt detective who allowed Stephen Moran into her case at St. Kilda’s (see The Secret Place). French develops a number of other great characters, whose banter and placement in the story help push the narrative along, sometimes in ways the reader might not expect. Choice of the murder victim as well as the motive are also important to an effective story, which French has kept unique and yet timely as the series gained momentum. French is always keen on adding themes, which helps add new flavour to the story and keeps me entertained as I gather the threads together. The title proves to be the strongest theme for me, showing the various forms of trespassers that emerge. One could easily see that the murderer proved to be the most apparent trespasser that invaded Aislinn Murray’s home, entering and leaving her body strewn on the floor after a struggle. Fathers to both Aislinn and Antoinette could also be seen as trespassers, having left their homes but invaded these women’s minds at various points in the story’s development. Antoinette herself may feel like a trespasser in the Squad, as she is vilified and treated poorly by her fellow detectives, turning against the only woman investigating murders. This trespasser sensation could lead her to depart, which would only fuel the rumours that Conway cannot handle the intensity of murder and the “boys’ club” that it seems to be. The conscientious reader may see others, which are left to germinate for those who want a little more out of the mystery. These well-crafted tales are surely not for everyone, as the story takes time to evolve and the narrative offers slow and paced growth, but that is perhaps one of the greatest features, as the reader is forced to investigate alongside the Murder Squad. While I am caught up on the series, the binge complete, I cannot wait to see where else this series takes fans.
Kudos, Madam French for leaving me needing more, which only goes to show how effective you are at writing. I hope that many who read this and other reviews will find the time to at least try one of your mysteries and see for themselves that Ireland holds many gems, not all of which require a rainbow.