Tana French: The Searcher

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I wouldn’t have some wan bringing her ideas into my house.  Wanting a chandelier, maybe, or a poodle, or me to do yoga classes

One of the best arguments I ever heard against marriage.
That’s the local sage Mart Lavin, Cal Hooper’s neighbour when he moves into the little Irish village of Ardnakelty, burned out from a career in the Chicago Police Department and still bruised by a divorce that seemed to come from nowhere. All he wants is peace, but of course he doesn’t get it. A persistent local kid, Trey, harasses him until he agrees to find out what happened to Trey’s older brother Brendan who disappeared nearly a year ago. He feels sorry for the kid, who comes from the local ne’er-do-well family, and he doesn’t really expect to find out anything, but before long he gets a warning from Mart that’s unmistakeable even though it’s delivered casually during a poteen session in the local pub. If he wants to fit in he’d better not keep asking questions about Brendan. Well, what do you expect him to do?

It isn’t just his detecting instincts that kick in, but what he tries to explain to Trey as the difference between manners and morals:
‘Morals,’ he says in the end, ‘is the stuff that doesn’t change. The stuff you do no matter what other people do….I just try to do right by people…. Is all.’

Tana French is very good on the atmosphere in the village, at once welcoming and punitive, casual on the surface but rigid underneath:
Around here mockery is like rain: most of the time it’s either present or incipient, and there are at least a dozen variants, ranging from nurturing to savage, and so subtly distinguished that it would take years to get the hang of them all.

It wasn’t the search for Brendan, but the light and shade of Cal’s interactions with this human ecosystem that absorbed and impressed me. None of it is clichéd and yet it strikes the satisfying notes cliché reaches for: Cal’s developing relationship with the tough but vulnerable Trey, his reconnection with his daughter Alyssa and his promising friendship with clear-eyed, uncompromising Lena. And Tana French writes wonderfully about the natural environment, with a freedom but economy that finds just the right detail of the countryside, the weather and the skies. I’ve read a few of her books now (see review of The Wych Elm) and I’m increasingly impressed with her intelligence and subtlety. Highly recommended.

14 thoughts on “Tana French: The Searcher

  1. Dear friends,
    You are great writers and excellent reviewers! Thanks for this very interesting piece about ‘The Searcher.’ Your opinion matches with the judgment of the NYT and of NPR. Best to you in the New Year! Much health, happiness and, of course, much writing and reading! Hugs from California

    From the Amazon site:
    A New York Times and NPR Best Book of 2020

    “This hushed suspense tale about thwarted dreams of escape may be her best one yet…its own kind of masterpiece.” –Maureen Corrigan, The Washington Post

      1. Thanks so much, dear friends! Same wishes to you as well. We will be really starting the New Year on January 20, when Mr. Biden will be the new President. There is so much to repair. Thanks again and I am happy that you are residents of AU, a happier and healthier country than our USA.

          1. “He has a huge job! 99% of Aus is 150% behind him.”

            Message sent by friends in Melbourne in support of President Biden.

            Thank you, my dear friends!!! 🇦🇺🌏🦘🇺🇸

            #Australia #USA #Biden #DemocracyWins #democracy #Respect

            My twitter at @FabioDL

  2. She’s a writer I really want to try in 2021, partly because of her skills in conveying a strong sense of place. I’m guessing that this is a standalone, i.e. not a part of the Dublin Murder Squad series. A good way in, do you think?

    1. Yes, a standalone as is The Wych Elm. This would be a good one to start with.

      All the best to you for the New Year. I hope things start to look up in Britain once the vaccine gets around.

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