Friday, September 25, 2015

What I've Been Reading Lately: Tana French

I can't recall which blog I was reading which recommended Tana French, but I do recall the logline of the recommendation.  She was on a list of books that named the blogger's Top Ten Most Devastating Reads.  I probably have the adjective wrong; but not far wrong.

Devastating but brilliant, I think was what the list said.  Again, I've got the adjectives wrong, but not far wrong.

I've read four of Tana French's books now, and my verdict is: Yup.

Born in America, Tana French lives in and writes about Ireland -- specifically, about murder and crime in Dublin.  These are murder mysteries, more or less.  Mostly more.

Her first book is In The Woods, published in 2004, but that is not the one I would start with.  It's very readable, and very well-done, but probably her weakest: a first novel.  Read it, but read it later.

Start with Broken Harbor.  This is a brilliantly crafted novel, with a wonderful main character, and a wonderful supporting character.

Mick Kennedy, the lead detective on the case, is training a rookie detective on the Murder Squad.  Kennedy's voice is the voice that runs through the novel.  His philosophy informs the novel as well -- that mostly people get what they deserve in this world, for instance (Kennedy believes in the Just World Theory) and that the rules are black and white and that following these rules is how one brings order to a world of chaos.

Kennedy's character is interesting both because he is a type, and because French bring depth to him -- he's not a stereotype, in other words -- and because she then develops that character even further.

And she also gives him his rookie partner, who is a different type, and whom Kennedy befriends, and who is, like Kennedy, very good at his work.  For the first half of the book the two work wonderfully together.  Then complications ensue.

The story also is enthralling -- Kennedy and his partner are called in on a multiple homicide, a whodunit.  Two small children, a husband, and a wife, except the wife might survive. It's a procedural, but with French it's never just a procedural.

You'll read this one and then you'll be (like me) hooked on Tana French forever.


Contingent Cassandra said...

I really enjoy French's books, too, and agree that _Broken Harbor_ may well be her best -- certainly her most innovative in form/plot. Both the description and the atmosphere of the half-abandoned housing project, and the particular house in which the story is set, certainly stuck with me.

delagar said...

Yes! I love the use of that housing project as an objective correlative, too (if you will forgive me some English professor talk) -- the way French uses it as a running metaphor all through the novel!