At the Senior Center, where I work part time, I edit and produce a regular newsletter. Each month, I compile elder news around town, including the book topic for the Second Friday Book Group. Once the group moderator gives me the title, I look it up online so I can write a one sentence snippet for readers. Nice way to get fodder for my own reading list, don’t you think?
April’s book is called Faithful Place, by Tana French, her third mystery, which features a detective from Dublin, who ends up investigating the cold case murder of a former girlfriend. After perusing the Amazon blurb, I was intrigued, but my personal book budget has been cut and the library copies of Faithful Place were all checked out by the reading group.
So…I took out Tana French’s first book, called In the Woods instead. It took me several days to get through the brief prologue, to the point where I wondered if I’d actually finish the book. Once I waded through those few brief pages though, French reeled me in with the depth of her description and the power of her dueling story lines.
Detective Rob Ryan and his partner are assigned the case of a young girl’s murder, which coincidentally happens in the town where Rob grew up, from which his two best friends disappeared when he was twelve-years-old. Rob, who was with his friends when they vanished, has no memory of what happened that day. As the detectives attempt to solve the current crime, Rob tries to transport himself back to scenes from his past in order to gain insight into the yet unsolved mystery from his youth.
Via sensory-assaulting description, skulking suspense, and plot twists that keep the reader guessing, French had me turning pages way past my bedtime. While the author ties up the current mystery, other story lines are left hanging, a sort of nod to real life that lends to the credibility of her tale.
As soon as I finished In the Woods, I went back to the library. I’m still out of luck with Faithful Place, so I check out French’s second book, The Likeness, which like book number one, I am struggling to put down.
In this story, after leaving the Murder Squad, Cassie Maddox, Rob Ryan’s partner from In the Wood is pulled back into a murder case, when a victim using an undercover alias from Cassie’s past and who looks enough like Cassie to be her identical twin, is discovered in an abandoned famine hut. Rather than release the news of the murder, the police concoct a serious injury, and after an imaginary hospital stay, introduce Cassie into the life and role of the murdered woman. I’m about half way through this one, turning the pages and saying out loud; “No, don’t do it!” to the MC as the author ratchets up the tension and inches the stakes higher. As with with In the Woods, I’m chasing after the final outcome of The Likeness the way a cat goes after a string, and if you’d like to know why, catch this little snippet from the beginning of the book:
Somewhere in the house, faint as a fingernail-flick at the edge of my hearing, there are sounds: a scuffle, whispers. It almost stops my heart. The others aren’t gone. I got it all wrong somehow. They’re only hiding; they’re still here, for ever and ever.
I follow the tiny noises through the house room by room, stopping at every step to listen, but I’m never quick enough; they slide away like mirages, just behind that door or up those stairs. The tip of a giggle, instantly muffled; a creak of wood. I leave wardrobe doors swinging open, I take the steps three at a time, I swing round the newel post at the top and catch a flash of movement in the corner of my eye; the spotted old mirror at the end of the corridor, my face reflected in it laughing.
By the time I finish reading The Likeness, Faithful Place should be available to me…and I have no doubt that the circles under my eyes from late night reading will continue to attest to Tana French’s imagination and talent.
Oh, by the way, no one asked me to review these books and I'm getting nothing from it.
What’s the best book you’ve read lately…and what made it so good?