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Book Author: Tana French

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.

FAITHFUL PLACE by Tana French: Book Review

Talk about your dysfunctional families.  The Mackeys of the Liberties section of Dublin put most other families to shame.

Faithful Place is the street, ill-named as it may be, where the Mackeys live.  The protagonist, Francis (Frank) Mackey has managed to escape his family and his childhood home, but all the other members of his family either still live there or haven’t gone far.

Frank is now a member of Dublin’s Undercover Squad, divorced, and the father of a nine-year-old daughter. Both his sisters are married with homes of their own.  But Frank’s brothers, Shay and Kevin, are still unmarried and live with their parents although they are well into their thirties.  And the Mackeys’ overbearing mother and alcoholic father are still at each other’s throats as they were all the years their children were growing up.

What got Frank out of Liberties was his plan, as a nineteen-year-old, to run away with his sweetheart Rosie Daly.  Very much in love and forbidden by Rosie’s father to see each other, Rosie suggests boarding the ferry to England and getting jobs there.  It takes them several months to save the required money, but finally all the plans are in place.  Frank is waiting for Rosie at midnight on the specified night, but she never shows.  And she’s never seen again.

Still desperate to escape his family, Frank gets as far as the other side of Dublin and becomes a member of the police force.  And for twenty-two years he has kept his distance from his family, his only contact being his younger sister Jackie.  As the story opens, Jackie has contacted Frank with incredible news–Rosie’s suitcase was found in a derelict house on Faithful Place, hidden behind the fireplace.  And Rosie’s suitcase turns out to be a modern-day Pandora’s box.  Secrets that have been hidden for years burst into the open when it is discovered.

Faithful Place is not a part of Dublin on the tourist route. It’s changing a bit as the new economy brings Yuppies into the area, but by and large it’s still the same families living there who have lived there for generations.  The men work in factories or are on the dole; the lucky ones work on the line at Guinness.  There’s very much a sense of not getting above yourself, not trying to be better than your parents or your peers.  If you do that, you’re definitely under suspicion.

Frank has moved out and on successfully, and that doesn’t sit right with his family. His older brother Shay is resentful, dreaming of the day that he will buy the bicycle shop he’s worked in for years, but he’s still living in the flat above his parents.  His younger brother Kevin seems younger than his years, never venturing far from home.

Tana French paints a devastating portrait of a neighborhood and a people stuck in place. The same arguments, the same rivalries, the same unhappiness exist more than two decades after Frank has left home.  It’s no wonder he didn’t want his young daughter to even know of the existence of this family.  And he’s furious when he finds out that his sister Jackie and his ex-wife have been secretly bringing his daughter to Faithful Place to visit his family.  Ms. French’s portraits of a family and a community coming apart is vivid and frightening.

Strangely, Tana French’s web site is three years out of date.  But you can read more about her at