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THE HUNTER by Tana French: Book Review

Johnny Reddy has been gone for four years, and not many people have missed him.  A good-looking charmer from childhood, he was always looking for something that his hometown of Ardnakelty couldn’t provide, always working on some plan or con to make himself rich.  Now he’s come back, bringing trouble with him.

Trey is the oldest Reddy daughter living at home.  At fifteen, she’s the one who remembers what it was like before her father went away and how much more peaceful the last four years have been.  For the past two years she’s been working after school with Cal Hooper, a Chicago police detective who took early retirement and found the town pretty much by looking at a map of Ireland, then deciding to move there.

Returning home alone, Johnny tells the town the reason he’s there and who will be following him.  He had met an Englishman in a London pub who was looking for someone from Ardnakelty, which is where he says his own family is from.  This man, Cillian Rushborough, heard from his grandmother that there was gold buried in the mountains surrounding the town.

Johnny tells his daughter and the men of the town that he has a plan to make certain Rushborough finds gold, or at least enough of it to assure him that there’s more to be found.  His plan is to “salt” the river with gold; the next step is to convince Rushborough that there’s gold in the fields and that he needs to buy digging rights from the men who own them.  As he says to the townsmen, “If Mr. Rushborough wants gold, then we’ll have to make sure he finds gold.”

As the plan goes, the Englishman will end up buying the rights to a portion of each man’s fields for a couple of thousand pounds, of which Johnny will get a percentage.  If there’s gold to be found, that will be great; if not, the men will have gotten money they didn’t have before, and Rushborough, although disappointed, will go home with stories about his Irish heritage to tell his friends.

After meeting Rushborough, the men of the town seem won over.  He appears unassuming but polished, fascinated by the stories he’s told of generations gone by.  Slowly but surely they appear to be drawn into the plan.

But then things slowly begin to go awry.  The townspeople are more savvy than it appears at first, Trey has her own ideas for working on this con, and Cal, an outsider, has to decide between keeping his own counsel or trying to protect Trey from the fallout when the Englishman discovers that there’s no gold to be had except for that deliberately placed in the river to persuade him to part with his money.

The Hunter is an engrossing story of a small town trying to get the better of a stranger in their midst, egged on by someone they know isn’t trustworthy but whom they still want to believe.  There’s greed, betrayal, kindness, and caring enough for readers to wish they could be hiding in the mountains surrounding the town to find out what is really going on in Ardnakelty.  The characters are believable, and the plot will keep you turning page after page.

Tana French is an American-Irish author living in Dublin.  Her novels have won the Edgar and Anthony awards, among others.  You can read more about her at this website.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden OldiesPast Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.

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