Compulsive, unpredictable and well-written mystery

The Searcher | Tana French

I’ve been a huge fan of Tana French since I was first blown away by the first of her novels I read, Broken Harbour, the fourth in the Dublin Murder Squad series (I then went back and read all the books in that excellent series). Her descriptions of a largely abandoned new housing estate, victim of the property bust in post-Celtic Tiger Ireland, was powerful and haunting, forming a backdrop with as much presence and personality as any of the characters.

The Searcher is set in the Irish countryside, and once again the setting is a powerful part of the story. The main character is an American, Cal, retired from the Chicago police force to an old cottage in the Irish countryside. This provides a rich set-up for entertaining plays on all the old tourist-brochure stereotypes, to reveal some harsh realities of modern Ireland. Hoary old farmers who joke about apps and internet porn. Drug gangs operating from old thatched cottages in the hills. Pub sing-songs with an undercurrent of menace.

It’s intelligent and well written, and makes for a cracking good read. The dialogue is excellent, and the author clearly has a good ear for Irish idiom. It’s rare to see Irish dialogue so well written, even by Irish authors, never mind by an American. Not a false note (that I could detect, anyway, but then I’m a Dubliner, not from the country, so who am I to judge?).

The other main character is Trey, a half-wild kid from a poor family, who forms an unlikely bond with Cal. The deepening of their friendship, tentative and fragile, is beautifully described.

It’s a wonderful novel that should appeal to a lot of readers. I’d call French a literary novelist, rather than a mystery writer, because she is clearly expert at her craft – there’s plenty of depth here to satisfy readers looking for ‘literature’. It would also be a good read for book groups. But it’s also very readable and accessible for anyone just looking for a well-written, engrossing thriller. I’ll be surprised if this doesn’t become a huge bestseller.

My thanks to Netgalley, the publishers and the author for giving me a free copy of this book. All my reviews are 100% honest and unbiased, regardless of how I acquire the book.


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