Tana French is a fabulous mystery author.
Her books are moody, atmospheric, and page-turners.
In order, they are: In the Woods, The Likeness, Faithful Place, and Broken Harbor, which came out last week.
They all stand alone, but they probably should be read in order, due to her shifting narrators. A character that first appears in the first book narrates the next book; a character in the second book narrates the third book, etc. So there is a nice progression of character development as you get to know the Dublin Murder Squad: Rob, Cassie, Frank, and Scorcher.
French clearly loves the police procedural genre. There are great twists, and she finds many opportunities to keep ratcheting the tension. Interviews with suspects go on for pages. The tiniest details can be relevant, and they all heighten the suspense. I noticed in Broken Harbor that the detectives don’t even get off the initial scene of the murder until at least 100 pages in. And yet so much happens there. She mines those scenes for everything in them and she does it fabulously, using the dialog and the detail work to continue to build suspense.
For all of that, they are really character-driven books. There is a common theme of the narrators returning to their past as they solve the big case, and by Broken Harbor, it’s a device that wears just a little less well than it does in the first three. But mostly, the detectives and their back stories help drive the action.
French is not afraid to tackle big themes either, and handle them well.
Interestingly, all of them, to some extent or another, have undercurrents of real estate development and its consequences. In the first book, a new road project is stalled by an archeological dig. In the second, a house and estate are attempted to be preserved so they can’t be developed. In the third, the mystery is triggered as an old abandoned home is torn down. In the fourth, the main action is centered in a mostly-abandoned suburban development that didn’t survive the recession.
All four are excellent.
If I had to pick a favorite, I don’t think I could. In The Woods stands out because it was the first. The Likeness was new to me–the central idea of it was one I’d never read before, and that’s always refreshing. And Broken Harbor really had a good dose of creepy to keep me turning the page.
If you’re looking to start off the series, here’s the place to start: In The Woods (Amazon affiliate link).
I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.