I’ve read the first four books of this series now. They’re good meaty mysteries set in contemporary Ireland. Each book has a first person narrator, a member of Dublin’s police department trying to solve a case that he or she has a particular connection to, that hits home for that person because of his or her past. As the series progresses, each new book is narrated by a character who had been introduced in the previous book. I appreciate that the endings aren’t overly neat and tidy. I listened to the books on audio and the readers all had nice accents.
One issue that several of the books address is development and economic collapse, and their effect on many different stakeholders. French tackles this issue in a nuanced way that doesn’t necessarily make anyone “good” or “bad.” Some examples: the archeological site in In the Woods that will be paved over for a road. The manor house in The Likeness that the owner wants to make a commune for his friends but the community wants to make a resort to revitalize the village. The urban despair of Faithful Place. The dishonest developers and shoddy houses in the unfinished subdivision and the unemployed father in Broken Harbor.
In the Woods by Tana French
Rob and his partner Cassie investigate a murder of a young girl near an archeological site. The location is near the place where Rob himself disappeared for several days when he was a child. He has no memory of the incident, but his friends never returned. Cassie emerges as the real hero of this book. She takes care of Rob through his breakdown and solves the case.
The Likeness by Tana French
So far this is my favorite book of the series. Cassie, Rob’s partner from In the Woods, narrates. The premise is kind of farfetched: a body is found, and Cassie just happens to be a dead ringer for the victim. So the department decides to pull an undercover operation, and pretend that the victim survived, sending Cassie in to gather information. She enmeshes herself in the victim’s tightknit friends and roommates, and kind of falls in love with the dead woman’s life.
Faithful Place by Tana French
Frank Mackey, head of undercover, returns to his home neighborhood for the first time in years when a suitcase belonging to his old girlfriend is found in an abandoned house. He follows its clues and discovers her body. He has to question his own family and encounter again the alcoholism and domestic violence that he escaped years ago. Frank makes a good narrator because he has a great sense of humor that he uses to charm information out of reluctant witnesses.
Broken Harbor by Tana French
Scorcher Kennedy, a hotshot detective with a great solve rate returns to the beach town where his mother killed herself to solve a triple homicide: two children and their father are dead; the mother barely survived. One major topic is mental illness and the stigma surrounding it. I particularly appreciated passages that showed the flaws in the doctrine of “positive thinking.” I was struck with the way the story portrayed the vulnerability of affluence, of people who focus on appearances.