Consuming Crime Fiction

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I am not usually an avid consumer of mystery or thriller novels, but I recently discovered Tana French’s compelling crime series (loosely titled the Dublin Murder Squad series), and I haven’t been able to put her books down ever since. I’ve also been recommending the series to anyone who will listen, and I have yet to encounter anyone who isn’t similarly captivated. These books are a perfect read for the coming cold weather so read on to find out more!

So far, French has written six books that all center around the (fictional) Dublin Murder Squad, with each novel focusing on a new crime, and each featuring different detectives within the squad. French’s writing style is fast-paced and exciting – both because of the atmospheric evocation of the crimes at the center of the novels, and because of the remarkable psychological insight she displays. But perhaps my favorite aspect of this series is that each title features a different narrator – always someone who appeared as a minor character in a previous novel. This means that the reader gets the chance to know the characters and narrators in a truly complex, multi-faceted way. The narrators and characters are all shown to be interconnected in intricate webs which, together with French’s nail-biting plot twists, always makes for a thrilling and endlessly surprising read. If you’re looking for a series that will keep you gripped from beginning to end, these books are well worth checking out.

In the Woods

In the summer of 1984, in Knocknaree, a small suburb of Dublin, three 12-year-old children ran off to play in the woods surrounding the estate where they lived. Two of them never returned, and one – Adam Ryan – was found terrorized, covered in blood, and with no recollection of the events of the last several hours. Nobody was ever able to discover what happened to the children. Twenty years later, Adam Ryan goes by the alias Rob Ryan, and is working as a detective for the Dublin Murder Squad. When a young girl is found murdered in Knocknaree, Rob and his partner Cassie Maddox are assigned the case, and they discover some startling similarities between this new murder and the earlier disappearance of Rob’s childhood friends. For Rob, the case becomes an opportunity not only to solve a murder, but also to dredge up his own shadowy memories and mysterious past.

The Likeness

Before Cassie Maddox transferred onto the Murder Squad, she was an undercover detective. During that time, she assumed the invented identity of one Lexie Madison in order to infiltrate a gang of drug dealers. Several years later, while Cassie is still trying to recover from the explosive events described in In the Woods, a dead body is found. The murdered girl is carrying ID that gives her name as Lexie Madison, and she looks almost exactly like Cassie. Who is the mysterious look-alike, and what chain of events lead to her living – and dying – on the outskirts of Dublin? In order to find out, Cassie must go undercover as Lexie once again, and delve deeply into the secrets of Whitethorn house and its five enigmatic inhabitants.

Faithful Place

Frank Mackey grew up in a tiny tenement flat in inner city Dublin, alongside four brothers and sisters, an overbearing mother, and a violent, alcoholic father. When his teenage girlfriend, Rosie Daly, suggested that the two elope to London together, Frank seized on the opportunity. But on the appointed evening of their departure, Rosie didn’t show. Frank assumed she had had enough of the dysfunctional Mackey family and had set out alone. Some twenty years later, Frank is a successful undercover cop, and has shed his past and his troublesome family. But when his sister gets in touch to inform him that Rosie’s suitcase has been found stashed inside a derelict house in the old neighborhood, Frank finds himself sucked right back into the midst of everything and everyone he worked so hard to escape.

Broken Harbor

Mick “Scorcher” Kennedy is trying to recover his reputation as the Murder Squad’s top detective after the events described in Faithful Place. He is reassured to be assigned a big-stakes case – the murder of a father (Pat Spain) and two small children (Emma and Jack), and the near-fatal assault on the mother (Jenny Spain). At first the case seems clear-cut, but as Mick and his new partner Richie delve further into the bizarre evidence at the scene, there is too much that cannot be explained with a quick solve. At the same time, the coastal town of Broken Harbor where the Spain family lived holds some painful memories for Mick, and those memories begin to challenge his own conceptions about police morality, and about the limits of his own role as detective.

The Secret Place

When an anonymous tip about the unsolved murder of a schoolboy is hand-delivered to Stephen Moran by the teenage Holly Mackey, he knows it is his opportunity to get a foot in the door of the coveted Murder Squad. Working alongside the abrasive Detective Antoinette Conway, Stephen finds himself plunged into a world of intense teenage rivalries, and even more intense friendships and loyalties at St. Kilda’s School. Stephen is young and likable, and he seems like the perfect person to gain the confidence of the girls. But the headmistress is willing to go to great lengths to keep scandal at bay. And Holly’s father, Detective Frank Mackey, is ready to intervene and put a halt to the investigation if any evidence seems to point to Holly. Will Antoinette and Stephen be able to infiltrate the private world of the teenage witnesses and suspects and discover what really happened to Chris Harper?

The Trespasser

Antoinette Conway is a tough detective on the Dublin Murder squad, but being on the Murder squad is nothing like what she dreamed it would be. Her partner, Stephen Moran, is the only one not taking part in a vicious running campaign to get rid of her. The duo is called to what seems like a routine murder case of a young woman that resulted from a lovers’ tiff, but the death won’t stay in its neat by-numbers box. As other detectives try to push them towards the obvious solution, Conway has to figure out whether this is just an another step in the campaign to force her off the squad, or whether there’s something deeper and darker going on.