The Trespasser (Dublin Murder Squad, #6)The Trespasser by Tana French
My rating: 5/5 cats
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my (very one-sided) love affair with tana french continues. to me, each book in this (loosely connected) series has been better than the one before. however, The Secret Place was a little bit of a hiccup for me in terms of this oft-expressed declaration. it was definitely not better than Broken Harbor (which might be my all-time favorite) – the teenspeak got to me a bit and it was the first time she decided – View Spoiler » but that element kind of threw me for a loop and i didn’t think it was successful. however, with this book, she is back in full force, and i’m more smitten than ever.

what’s so great about her is that she is proficient – nay, masterful – at every aspect of her craft so it looks good from every angle and there’s literally something for everyone. there’s an intriguing central puzzle for the mystery fans, her characters are original and deeply constructed for the literary fiction fans, she is excellent at controlling the pacing so it’s neither too slow for a beach read nor too zippy if you want to become deeply immersed in a plot, it’s spooky and suspenseful and smart and so, so funny.

and her descriptions? it’s like being there with all your senses engaged

In the Castle grounds the street lamps are still on, but the city is lightening, barely, into something sort of like morning. It’s not raining – which is good: somewhere across the river there could be shoe prints waiting for us, or cigarette butts with DNA on them – but it’s freezing and damp, a fine haze haloing the lamps, the kind of damp that soaks in and settles till you feel like your bones are colder than the air around you. The early cafes are opening; the air smells of frying sausages and bus fumes.

there’s nothing phoned-in about her books, not ever – she always delivers the most satisfyingly chewy reading experiences.

and she’s outdone herself with her central character this time. we met detective conway in The Secret Place, and we all loved her brash, no-nonsense toughness. and now that she’s teamed up with detective stephen moran (of both ‘place’ novels – faithful and secret), it’s just the best gooey icing. these two are perfect working partners – they get each other and they click in that perfect complementary sherlock-and-watson way, playing to each others’ strengths and attuned to each others’ body language and thought processes despite seeming, on the surface, to be complete opposites: moran is easygoing and affable and gets along with everyone, while conway… well, she’s been having a rough time ever since she transferred from missing persons to the murder squad. part of it is her being the only woman, part is her vague ethnicity (she never knew her father, but he was evidently on the darker side of the skin-tone spectrum), and part of it is her standoffish attitude. it’s a chicken-egg situation – she’s been the victim of cruel pranks, shut out from cases, subjected to sexist and racist remarks, and had her own cases actively sabotaged, but it’s unclear whether her treatment from the boys’ club murder squad is a response to her “fuck off” attitude or its cause. in any event, it has created a toxic working environment where the only ally she has is her partner, and she has to work twice as hard as everyone else – investigating murders while also making sure she remembers to bring her coffee with her when she leaves the room in case she comes back to find someone has spit in it. this additional layer of wariness has taken its toll on her already-cranky personality, with all that unnecessary stress and doubt and apprehension clouding her judgment.

Two years of watching my back, watching every step and every word, in fight mode all day every day: my instincts are fried to smoking wisps.

and for a detective, instinct is the most important sense.

so when she and moran are handed what appears to be a clear-cut case of a lover’s fight turned deadly, but which becomes murkier and murkier the more they uncover, and when certain members of their squad seem overly involved with the investigation; steering them towards certain angles and away from others, it doesn’t take long for conway’s justifiable suspicion of everyone to turn into a more emphatic paranoia.

the tension is built perfectly – since we are seeing everything through conway’s perspective, we’re always right there with her – second-guessing what’s really going on; what’s a trap, what’s a too-easy solution, when the other shoe is going to drop. it is a very intense and claustrophobic experience.

it takes a special kind of narrator to be angry at so many different things at once –

Domestics are mostly slam-dunks; the question isn’t whether you can arrest your guy, or girl, it’s whether you can build a case that’ll hold up in court. A lot of people love that – it pretties up your solve rate, looks good to the brass – but not me: it means domestics get you fuck-all respect from the squad, where I could do with it, because everyone knows the solve came easy. Which is also the other reason they piss me off: they’ve got a whole special level of idiotic all to themselves. You take out your wife or your husband or your Shag of the Day, what the fuck do you think is gonna happen? We’re gonna be standing there with our mouths open, scratching our heads at the mind-blowing mystery of it all, Duh, I dunno, musta been the Mafia? Surprise: we’re gonna go straight for you, the evidence is gonna pile up way over your head, and you’re gonna wind up with a life sentence. If you want to kill someone, have enough respect for my time to make it someone, anyone, other than the most gobsmackingly obvious person in the world.

how do you not fall in love with her?

hers is an incandescent, bitingly-expressed brand of anger, in which everyone except moran is a target at some point. but man does she hate rory, the wishy-washy “nice guy” main suspect in his girlfriend aislinn’s murder, and his cowering, floppy-haired meekness.

I’m amazed this guy manages to get out of bed in the morning without working himself into a panic attack over the chance that he might trip on the bath mat and stab himself through the eye socket with his toothbrush and be left with a permanent twitch that’ll ruin his chances of landing an airplane safely if the pilot has a heart attack and doom hundreds to a fiery death.

which is ironic, in a way. conway detests dreamy people; an attribute both the victim and suspect share.

What-if-maybe crap is for weak people. It belongs to the ones who don’t have the strength to make actual situations go their way, so they have to hide away in daydreams where they can play at controlling what comes next. And that makes them even weaker.

but we’re usually the most disgusted by those weaknesses of others that reflect our own weaknesses and insecurities. conway is anything but weak, but the particulars of her position in the squad have made her susceptible to the very same “daydreams” – in her case, speculations and paranoia rather than slappy-happy fantasies – as rory. she doesn’t clock the parallel herself, but it’s there – it’s a current underneath everything she does, putting up her guard, making sure her notes are locked up and her browser cleared – always anticipating an attack, which is the darker side of the “what-if-maybe” impulse.

as with all her novels, tana french shines in the way she understands and portrays the innerworkings of the justice system – the way crimes are investigated, the hierarchies within the various divisions, the relationships between detectives and their informants and the press, the slippery nature of undercover work, and her meticulous detailing of the process of everything from interviewing witnesses to paperwork, somehow making it fascinating and also surprising, even to people who have watched wayyyy too many crime dramas in their lifetimes.

this kind of detailing is a very smart method of adding depth to characterization through a backdoor, without having to go full-on exposition, and it’s another example of how she’s so damn good at what she does. in descriptions like this, we get unexpected insight into conway, who has left the missing persons squad behind for the bigger flash of murder, despite what it is costing her, psychologically:

Missing Persons isn’t like Murder. In Missing Persons, you don’t work your case aiming to take down a bad guy; you work it aiming to get a happy ending. If it even looks like there might be a bad guy to take down, mostly it’s not your problem any more – say a body shows up looking dodgy, you hand it straight over to Murder. You can go your entire career without ever using your handcuffs. That attracts a whole different type from Murder or Sex Crime, the squads where your mind is focused on the kill shot and happy endings aren’t on the menu, and it makes for a whole different atmosphere.

there is a scene in which conway has to contact her old boss from missing persons and it’s just so powerfully bittersweet a moment – it hits the reader with the full force of the professional, respectful environment she’s left behind, where she was valued, to drag herself into a horrible atmosphere every day; knowing she’s more suited to the work, even if she’s not getting the credit she deserves, which knowledge is no comfort at all.

a final word on partnership. seriously – conway and moran are perfection together. and despite her feelings on what-if-maybes, conway does get a little starry-eyed over stephen. not romantically, thank god, but in her own distinctive way:

Once or twice – more – I caught myself daydreaming like a sappy teenager about our future together: about someday when we would get the decent cases, the genius plans we’d dream up to trap the cunning psychos, the interrogations that would go down in squad history.

that’s the apogee of infatuation for our dear antoinette conway.

and it’s perfect.

i’m a little sad that i know how unlikely it is that we’ll ever get another conway-driven novel from tana french, considering her MO of mixing up narrators with each book. she was so appealing to me, and the whole trajectory of this book, being immersed in an escalating sense of dread and feeling increasingly unmoored and suspicious of everyone was exhilarating and exhausting all at once. i loved every minute of it.

a must-read, people.

thanks a million to anmiryam.

thank goodness for book angels!!!

review to come


ohhhh book angels!! please shower me with blessings!! blessings shaped like this book!

read my reviews on goodreads

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