Friday, November 27, 2020

The Searcher - slow paced suspense from Tana French

Title: The Searcher
Author: Tana French
Publication: Viking, hardcover, 2020
Genre: Suspense
Description: When Cal Hooper decides to get away from it all – the senseless violence of 25 years as a Chicago policeman, a bad divorce, a daughter who has moved to Seattle and barely speaks to him, he buys a run-down cottage in a small village on the west side of Ireland anticipating that fixing it up will keep him busy for years. He doesn’t expect the news of his former career to get around so quickly but when it does a local teen asks Cal for help locating a missing sibling. Once Cal agrees, reluctantly, to help that irrevocably changes how he will be perceived and accepted in his new community and whether the secrets he discovers will change his willingness to stay there.

My Impression: Possibly I don’t like Tana French’s books as much as I had thought. This is her second standalone, after having written six books about the Dublin Murder Squad and their investigations, and although it was very readable, I found it disappointing. I did not care that much about the characters and their problems, which is how I felt about The Witch Elm, her last book. Usually, one of French’s talents is to make me curious and interested in even the unlikeable people in her books. In fact, as my sister pointed out when she stopped by today with some Thanksgiving potatoes, one of the appealing things about French’s series books is that she usually promotes a secondary character from an earlier book to tell the next story from his or her perspective, making the reader care. But now that I am carefully considering it, I have decided her first three books, In the Woods, The Likeness, and Faithful Place were the best and are most worth reading. In order, of course. The Secret Place was set at a girls’ boarding school, normally a venue that appeals to me, but it was no Malory Towers!

I can see that Cal being a stranger to the town of Ardnakelty is important to the plot because it has secrets someone local (perhaps even someone Irish) would have known or guessed, and probably want to avoid. However, I did not find his character all that convincingly American (partly because the author couldn’t decide if he was a shrewd Chicago cop or a down-home guy from the South). To me what was more interesting was how he undertook an investigation without the modern tools of the trade, putting a trace on the missing person’s phone, checking his finances, authorized interviews of all his associates. The story is slow-paced but ominous as warnings are administered to Cal and Trey Reddy as their curiosity is noted and discouraged. There is dark humor although Cal wonders if he is the butt of the jokes.  He makes some missteps but does eventually learn what has been hidden about the disappearance of Brendan Reddy. The truth is likely to make most readers think twice about retiring to a quiet Irish village.

I try not to read reviews of books I know I am going to read so I only took a quick look at the New York Times review of The Searcher.  I did grasp that the reviewer compared the book to a classic western which I thought was a stretch until I read the Washington Post review by Maureen Corrigan just now.  She explains for those who are not movie experts that French has said she was influenced by a John Ford 1956 masterpiece, The Searchers, about an outsider drawn into a search for someone who was abducted.  Maureen thought this might be French's best book yet; I would say 3/5.  We decided my niece should start with The Likeness.
Source: Library.  


Ruthiella said...

Hmmm...I am looking forward to reading this one. She is one of the few authors I manage to keep up with.

I liked The Witch Elm though I think I prefer the Dublin Murder Squad series and its change in perspective from book to book. My favorite thus far is Broken Harbor. But my favorite character is Antoinette Conway.

I would love it if she would bring the Dublin Murder Squad full circle someday and end with a final book from Rob's perspective - now older, but is he any wiser?

TracyK said...

I will probably get this someday but I have two of the Dublin Murder Squad books left to read, plus The Witch Elm so not in any rush. Nice review, although I skimmed because I don't like to know anything in advance either.

Tina said...

I'm a big fan of Tana French butI agree with you about Witch Elm. That was a slow going book and I couldn't like anyone except the uncle in that one. Dublin Murder Squad was great and I hope she returns to it one day. Loved The Likeness and I am in the minority on this one but, I liked Broken Harbor very much.