Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad came across my radar earlier this year, via a recommendation from my brother. I’m 3 books in (there are 6 as of this writing) and every one of them has been a gale-force tornado of thrills.
Tana French knows just what buttons to push. She drops these characters into your life and makes you either want to be them, hang out with them, or just ask them questions about life. She writes them with such a degree of reality that even when they aren’t admirable, they are highly readable. No pulled punches, just solid humanity.
The premise is thus: An Garda Siochana, the Irish Police, do not actually have a Murder Squad, nor do they carry firearms, but French has written a world wherein both of these things are non factors.
From there, we start with Detective Rob Ryan, a somewhat experienced guy on the force, who was traumatized by something in his childhood village. He now has to solve a case in that same village while keeping his past hidden from his seniors. Throughout the case, Rob’s weaknesses and faults are revealed, sometimes with humor, sometimes with painful honesty, but always in a relatable way. I can’t say I have frequently read such a well developed character that wasn’t also insanely boring.
After Rob’s case ends, the next book follows his former Murder partner, Cassie Maddox, who used to work Undercover. When a girl shows up dead–a girl who looks just like Cassie, and living under a fake name that was one of Cassie’s aliases–Cassie has to go back undercover and find out which of her four “friends” likely killed her. Once again, rich, full characters filled out the roster, and French showed herself to be adept at handling a crazy complex and layered plot at the same time. So far, this was my favorite of the series.
Mackey, your garden variety tough guy who breaks rules to solve cases–partly because it works, and partly because he likes to. He once planned to elope to England at age 19, but on the night he and his girl meant to meet up, she ditched him and he went off alone. 22 years later, he finds out why…and he has a score to settle.
I could praise so many elements of these books all day, from the anecdotal asides that reveal the depth of these characters, to the complex twists that have so far thrown me, to the unique voices of these gritty Irish law enforcers…but the best thing I can tell you, honestly, is to just read them.
Now, as always, I warn about language, and between these books being about Ireland and them being about cops, they are very much not sanitized. Just be aware of that.
But Tana French is a heck of a writer, and I plan to keep up–I have a lot to learn from her.