EXCERPT: He’s halfway through his second pint before he tunes into the argument going on down the bar. It catches his ear because it sounds unusual. Mostly the arguments in here are the well-worn kind that can be made to stretch for years or decades, resurfacing periodically when there’s nothing fresh to discuss. They involve farming methods, the relative uselessness of local and national politicians, whether the wall on the western side of the Strokestown road should be replaced by fencing, and whether Tommy Moynihan’s fancy conservatory is a nice touch of modern glamour or an example of jumped-up notions. Everyone already knows everyone’s stance on the issues – except Mart’s, since he tends to switch sides regularly to keep things interesting – and is eager for Cal’s input to mix the conversation up a little.
This argument has a different ring to it, louder and messier, like it’s one they haven’t practiced. ‘There’s no dog could do that,’ the guy at the end of the bar is saying stubbornly. He’s little and round, with a little round head perched on top, and he tends to wind up on the wrong end of jokes; generally he seems okay with this, but this time he’s turning red in the face with vehemence and outrage. ‘Did you even look at them cuts? It wasn’t teeth that done that.’
ABOUT: THE SEARCHER – Cal Hooper thought a fixer-upper in a remote Irish village would be the perfect escape. After twenty-five years in the Chicago police force, and a bruising divorce, he just wants to build a new life in a pretty spot with a good pub where nothing much happens.
But then a local kid comes looking for his help. His brother has gone missing, and no one, least of all the police, seems to care. Cal wants nothing to do with any kind of investigation, but somehow he can’t make himself walk away.
Soon Cal will discover that even in the most idyllic small town, secrets lie hidden, people aren’t always what they seem, and trouble can come calling at his door.
MY THOUGHTS:For some unknown reason, I haven’t read anything by Tana French for several years. But I am glad I decided to resume our relationship with The Searcher, very much a character driven mystery.
Her characters are ‘characters’: from Cal, fresh out of Chicago who came looking for a small place, a small town in a small country, settling on Ireland because at least he wouldn’t have to learn a new language; to Noreen who runs the shop in the brief double line of buildings that counts as Ardnakelty village, and who won’t order the cookies Mart likes because of a complicated saga that took place in the 1980s and involved her uncles and Mart’s father and grazing rights.
The townsfolk are insular, almost feudal. They will look out for and protect one another, even punish one another, but are slow to accept change or new people into their midst. The ‘bush telegraph’ is alive and well in Ardnakelty. At one point, Cal concedes that ‘a guy can’t pick his nose around here without the whole town telling him to wash his hands.’ The pub, Sean Og’s, is the social centre of village life, along with Noreen’s store, where you will be served a healthy slice of gossip along with your grocery order. Unless, of course, you’re on the outer, in which case all you will get is misdirection and obfuscation at best; at worst, stony silence and a withering stare. Or, a warning.
The beauty of The Searcher lies in its characters, who come very much alive with French’s skilful depiction. There are many laugh out loud moments, but also moments of deep emotional complexity. This was a slow read, in the context that I took my time and lingered over passages, enjoying the depth of the characters and the complexity of their thought processes.
This is not a thriller. The Searcher is an atmospheric mystery underpinned with a lurking menace. It is a portrait of a small village determined to protect itself. It is an immensely satisfying read.
THE AUTHOR: Tana French, born 1973 in Burlington, Vermont, is an American-Irish writer and theatrical actress. She is a longstanding resident of Dublin, Ireland. Her debut novel In the Woods, a psychological mystery, won the Edgar, Anthony, Macavity, and Barry awards for best first novel. She lives in Dublin with her family.
DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Penguin General UK via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Searcher by Tana French for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.
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