When I made the Murder squad, I had already had my new work clothes – beautifully cut suits in materials so fine they felt alive to your fingers, shirts with the subtlest of blue or green pinstripes, rabbit-soft cashmere scarves – hanging in my wardrobe for almost a year. I love the unspoken dress code. It was one of the things that first fascinated me about the job – that and the private, functional, elliptical shorthand: latents, trace, Forensics. One of the Stephen King small towns where I was posted after Templemore had a murder: a routine domestic-violence incident that had escalated beyond even the perpetrator’s expectations, but, because the man’s previous girlfriend had died in suspicious circumstances, the Murder squad sent down a pair of detectives. All the week they were there, I had one eye on the coffee machine whenever I was at my desk, so I could get my coffee when the detectives got theirs, take my time adding milk and eavesdrop on the streamlined, brutal rhythms of their conversation…
You learn by osmosis, as soon as you set your sights on the job, that you are expected to look professional, educated, discreetly expensive with just a soupcon of originality. We give the taxpayers their money’s worth of comforting cliché. We mostly shop at Brown Thomas, during the sales, and occasionally come into work wearing embarrassingly identical soupcons.
commentary: Oh what a failure. No, not the book – it is I who am a failure. Having loved Tana French's The Secret Place and the newly-published The Trespasser, I am supposed to be rationing out those of her books I haven’t read yet, to make the joy last longer. So I downloaded this one to my Kindle, to have in reserve, for some future moment. I have review books, and promises, and commitments, and many many books to read – Tana can wait for a while.
Only she can’t. I read it, swallowed it down at a great speed, and have already downloaded the next one. Oh dear oh dear: I am going to run out of books by her quite soon…
This was her first, and must have exploded onto the crime scene like a grenade – I remember hearing about it, and can’t imagine why I didn’t read it then.
It’s a police procedural set in the Dublin Murder Squad (as are all her books) and features the murder of a 12-year old girl at a small town outside the city. The narrator and his female partner set out to investigate, but the narrator has a secret: he comes from the same place, and has a parallel story in his childhood – he survived a still-unsolved incident in which his two best friends disappeared.
It is, admittedly, a lot to swallow that he takes up the case without telling anyone this, and it is unthinkable that he could take such a major part in the new investigation, or think that the story won’t come out. But once you get past this, the book is absolutely compelling, long and satisfying (98%) and highly entertaining. The relationship between the two lead officers is very well done. At times I thought ‘hang on…’ but on the whole French is ahead of the reader – certain things will become obvious is all I’m saying. I didn’t have any trouble working out the outline of the murder, but the details were sufficiently unguessable to keep my interest. I would have had a few questions for French and her narrator at the end…
The ending is very controversial if you look online: many people were disappointed, even devastated by a certain lack of resolution. I found it uncomfortable, but can understand that the author was trying to do something specific. I would definitely have liked more information.
As ever, there is a lovely, funny, colloquial feel to it. I liked the senior policeman whose marriage has broken up:
The grapevine had picked up a series of awkward attempts at relationships, including one spectacularly unsuccessful blind date where the woman turned out to be an ex-hooker he had arrested regularly in his Vice days... and the gentle introduction of a supernatural element:
‘She always said it was the pooka took them.’An absolutely brilliant thriller, one that kept me reading for hours when I should have been doing other things.
This one took me by surprise. The pooka is an ancient child-scarer out of legend, a wild mischief-making descendant of Pan and ancestor of Puck. He had not been on Kiernan and McCabe’s list of persons of interest.
There are more books by Tana French, but don’t expect any more reviews soon. Of course I am going to be able to hold off from reading them soon, I have the willpower…
Last year I had a similar reaction to Ariana Franklin’s Adelia books – the setting of her crime novels (12th century Europe) couldn’t be more different, but I loved them and read them all in a short space of time.