29 de setembre de 2015

Tana French’s literary crime fiction

[The Tufts Daily, 28 september 2015]

Natalie Girshman

About a year ago, I thought that I didn’t like mystery novels. I thought they were predictable, formulaic and populated with cookie-cutter style detectives who investigated gruesome crimes in bland prose while reflecting on their failed relationships with their ex-wives. Then I read the first novel in Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad series, “In the Woods” (2007). A year later, I am still recommending the entire series to everyone who passes my way with the fervor of an evangelist.
Each book in the series focuses on a different detective on the Murder Squad, taking a minor character from a previous book and giving them their own story. The series begins with Detective Rob Ryan, the protagonist of “In the Woods.” He’s a lost boy who’s just barely managed to grow up, the kind of character who first breaks your heart a little and then a lot. When Rob was 12, he and two of his best friends went into the woods to play and Rob was the only one who came out. Twenty years later, Rob has done his best to put the past behind him, but when he and his partner Cassie are put on the case of the murder of a little girl in those same woods, everything starts to unravel.
The next book focuses on Cassie as she gets swept up in the murder case of a woman who looks exactly like her. The one after that follows Frank Mackey, Cassie’s former boss with a complicated family history and a lost childhood sweetheart. The series consists of five books in total, and each one is just as good as the last. French doesn’t stick to a formula but crafts a different kind of story every time, whether it’s a wistful love story, an eerie tale of mental illness or an exploration of the close-knit friendships between teenage girls. And whether it takes place inside an old Irish country house, a half-empty coastal development or an exclusive Dublin prep school, she captures the atmosphere perfectly every time and makes you believe every last painstakingly crafted detail of the book’s world.
Some characters are so achingly, heartbreakingly real that you can’t help but feel everything right along with them. However flawed they are, however hopeless their situation seems, you can’t help wishing desperately that everything will somehow reverse itself and turn out all right in the end. Each narrator has an incredibly distinctive voice and a point of view that colors everything in the novel, including the city and the characters that the reader may think they already know. It’s especially fascinating to read a character’s point of view after having seen them solely through another character’s eyes. In French’s novels, no one is exactly who they think they are. Simply put, her characters are more well-written than those in quite a few of the acclaimed literary novels I’ve read. When combined with her mastery of tone and intricate, compelling plots, they make her novels nearly impossible to put down.
So if you’re looking to explore a new kind of mystery, make yourself a cup of tea, sit down with one of French’s novels and prepare to fall in love.


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