- 10 Dec 20
Into The Western
I must admit that I haven't read any of Tana French's wildly popular Dublin Murder Squad books. I've heard good things about them, but my reticence to get stuck in may have something to do with the TV show which was based on two of the novels in the series. That didn't agree with me at all, but I shouldn't judge a book by its cover (version).
The Searcher is the second stand novel by the American-Irish writer after 2018's The Wych Elm, another book that earned its share of acclaim. Cal Hooper, a retired Chicago cop, buys a wreck of a house in rural Ireland, and finds a kind of happiness in carrying out the repairs and the peaceful beauty of the surrounding area. It doesn’t last, needless to say, because there wouldn't be much sport in that. Cal feels someone is watching him and he’s right, as it turns out, and this drags him into a search for local wrong-side-of-the-mountain urchin Trey’s missing brother, Brendan.
French's novel isn't in a huge hurry to get to the plot, but you won’t mind the wait because you get to spend it with local characters like Cal’s farmer neighbour Mart and local shopkeeper Noreen. There are some marvellous exchanges between the various players, the dialogue is cracking, and the scenes in the pub - despite the fact that things kick off - had me all misty eyed for a start. The relationship between Cal and Trey is also built up slowly, as they take their time trusting each other over the old desk they're restoring.
The plot, when it does get going, has enough twists to keep you going, but what's particularly interesting is the way that Cal has to carry out police work without actually being police, which means no resources. Basically, it's a sort of Irish rural western - take another look at the title - with Cal as the lone lawman in this valley of the squinting windows, a small town where everyone has their ear out. The main character is skilfully filled out as the pages turn, revealing a decent man disillusioned by the work he once did. That same decency means he was never going to turn down Trey's request for help.
Normally, you might be inclined to launch a thriller that moves this slowly towards the bin, but The Searcher is a hugely enjoyable novel with plenty going on even when it seems that little is. French is every bit as good as people say.