The Trespasser by Tana French
Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad is a consistently well-written and entertaining psychological suspense series. The latest entry, The Trespasser, is another winner. While not my personal favorite in the series, it is nevertheless a terrific read with French’s trademark plot twists and deep delving into the minds of both the victims and the cops who investigate the crimes.
Since the first book in the series, French has taken a secondary figure from an earlier book and made them the lead in the next one. The Trespasser is told from the perspective of Antoinette Conway, the lone female detective on the murder squad. Along with her partner, Stephen Moran, they are called in to investigate what looks to be a routine domestic incident that led to the death of a young woman, Aislinn Murray. It wouldn’t be much of a story if it were actually a routine incident, so of course it is not.
The boyfriend is an obvious suspect, but Conway sees an unusual amount of secrets in the victim’s life, and finds the pressure from within the squad to make a quick arrest of the boyfriend likewise suspicious. Complicating matters is the harassment Conway routinely receives from her own squad. This causes her to suspect that she may be being misled so that she will make a mistake which will lead to her either quitting or being fired. But is the mistake acting too quickly or not acting quickly enough with an obvious suspect in front of her?
In the first part of the story, we learn of the possible presence of a “mystery man” in Aislinn’s life. The evidence is scant enough that it’s possible he doesn’t exist. This fuels Conway’s paranoia. At various points she begins to suspect everyone on the murder squad to be out to get her, even coming to believe that her partner wouldn’t mind seeing her gone. It’s in this early part that I felt the story suffered a little in comparison to previous entries in the series. Conway’s introspective paranoia began to stray from legitimate grievances to self-pitying wallowing. Whether this was a result of or caused by a lot more of the novel spending time within the actual police headquarters as compared to the other books I’m not sure. The time spent focusing on Conway’s relationship with the squad seemed to slow what we were learning about Aislinn’s life to a trickle.
The story picks up the pace at about the halfway point and we begin to see more solid evidence of there being more to Aislinn than meets the eye. Some of the most entertaining parts of French’s books are the investigatory dead ends that rather than being throwaways, are part of the sifting and winnowing that allows the true story to emerge and lead to the solving of the crime. Likewise, there is a jumping back and forth in time, as events in the victim’s past shine a light on the crime in the present.
As Conway and Moran close in on the murderer, not only does Aislinn as a victim come into tragic focus, but Conway gets clarity on her own place in the squad and is able to interpret events a little more realistically.
One of the things that French does best in her novels is to drive home the tragedy and pointlessness of these crimes. She also shows how events deep in the past have shaped these persons lives; victims, perpetrators and investigators. The open question is whether once started on this path, was tragedy always inevitable? French makes you care about these characters and feel the pain of the choices they made. Hope comes in the form of the lessons the detectives learn along the way and the chance that it alters their perspective enough to change their own path.
The Trespasser is another great read from French and perfect for anyone who enjoys psychological suspense. I’ll keep reading as long as she keeps writing. Highly recommended.
I was fortunate to receive an advance copy of this book.
Description: In bestselling Tana French’s newest “tour de force,”* being on the Murder squad is nothing like Detective Antoinette Conway dreamed it would be. Her partner, Stephen Moran, is the only person who seems glad she’s there. The rest of her working life is a stream of thankless cases, vicious pranks, and harassment. Antoinette is savagely tough, but she’s getting close to the breaking point.
Their new case looks like yet another by-the-numbers lovers’ quarrel gone bad. Aislinn Murray is blond, pretty, groomed to a shine, and dead in her catalogue-perfect living room, next to a table set for a romantic dinner. There’s nothing unusual about her—except that Antoinette’s seen her somewhere before.
And that her death won’t stay in its neat by-numbers box. Other detectives are trying to push Antoinette and Steve into arresting Aislinn’s boyfriend, fast. There’s a shadowy figure at the end of Antoinette's road. Aislinn's friend is hinting that she knew Aislinn was in danger. And everything they find out about Aislinn takes her further from the glossy, passive doll she seemed to be.
Antoinette knows the harassment has turned her paranoid, but she can’t tell just how far gone she is. Is this case another step in the campaign to force her off the squad, or are there darker currents flowing beneath its polished surface?