My rating: 4 of 5 stars
don’t plan on doing anything (like sleeping, or going to work) in the middle of this book. it won’t let you.
tana french is master at the psychological puzzle, and this book is a very nuanced example of that. the central themes of this book echo along all its passages, and i suspect will very much reward a second read after you’ve done the hell-bent whodunit read.
the book keeps itself to very few characters, on the whole: our detective, the damaged but horribly perspicacious Mick Kennedy; his newbie partner Richie; the victims and their immediate family; and Kennedy’s sister, who plays a small but pivotal role. the story is told from Kennedy’s view, and we know only what he knows and only when he knows it. this tight focus permits French to let us in on every thought the man has during the investigation, and his every perception. we get his worldview and his blind spots all of a piece.
i’ve never been to Ireland, don’t know the culture. i do know its recent economic history has been a horrorshow of the failings of capitalism, and this recent history makes for almost a character in its own right–no single human can have had the devastating effects that it has had. economics cuts a swath through this tale with a scythe, and no one gets away unpunished.
the book does have flaws, however, one of which got almost irritating. Kennedy and Richie spend a lot of time speculating on who might have done it, and why, all without any or much physical evidence to back up their conclusions. i am sure that real detectives do speculate, but i have a hard time believing that the good ones do it quite so much on the basis of no evidence–i’m guessing they’d say, “eh, I dunno, we need to find out X first” and then spend some time finding out X. in places these gentlemens’ flights of fancy were just way further out than i think a real detective might go, and it begins then to smell like an author throwing out red herrings.
it’s not as moving, i think, as Faithful Place was, nor as rich as that book felt. but still entirely worth the read. i am looking forward to re-reading it in a year or so, when i can revel more thoroughly in French’s portrait of Kennedy.