The Searcher by Tana French
My first thought after my grandmother handed me this book was, “What’s with the random field on the cover?” After finishing it, however, I can say I have never seen a cover that better captures the tone of the writing.
“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. Trey Reddy’s 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.
“Against his will, he discovers 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.”
Cal is the quintessential burnt-out policeman. He has a no-nonsense attitude and a low tolerance for b*llsh*t that pushes him toward a simpler life away from the crime and politics of modern Chicago. Like many divorced men, he doesn’t really understand what went wrong in his marriage, though his experience with Trey sheds some light on it.
Trey is a typical teenager who communicates via a rich variety of shrugs and eye rolls decipherable only to familiar eyes. At once stubborn and vulnerable, Trey simultaneously reminds Cal what it means to be the good guy and forces him to break the rules.
Surrounding these characters are the colorful townsfolk one expects in a small village—the good, the bad, the ugly, and the all three at once.
The Searcher is slow-burn psychological crime fiction that lures the reader into its depths with tiny morsels of information. The mystery unravels not with wild accusations and dramatic revelations, but with subtle nods and shifty glances. While not action-packed, I still felt compelled to finish it. Though the ending was anti-climactic, I loved the twist in the middle.
French’s style is lyrical, complex, and creepy—like a symphony played in a minor key. The Los Angeles Times said that French, “could make a Target run feel tense and revelatory,” and I agree. Much of the book comprises mundane tasks—fixing a desk, fishing, grocery shopping, watching the flock of rooks in the nearby tree—but the overtone of tension makes it engaging. I’ve never felt so nervous reading about a guy tearing out his wallpaper. The plot didn’t thrill me, and I wasn’t ecstatic about the ending, but I would have finished this book regardless just to continue reading French’s masterfully crafted sentences.
As I mentioned above, the cover design at first baffled me, but after finishing the novel, I can say it’s a perfect match.
You know you’re dealing with a big shot when the author’s name is far bigger than the book’s title. This is the first book I have read from this author, but her mastery of tone and tension have added her name to my “read more” list. Set in a colorful Irish town and drenched in tension, The Searcher is perfect for passing time while snowed-in on Halloween (Yes, people who live near the equator, that happens). While I would not recommend it for readers who need action-packed drama, those who appreciate a more subtle approach to crafting mood will love French’s writing style.
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