Some of the finest thriller and crime writers of all time have come from the British isles starting with Charles Dickens, Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie. Ireland’s Tana French is on the path to joining the coterie of highly regarded contemporary mystery/thriller authors who include P.D. James, Raymond Chandler, Dorothy Sayers, and Lee Child.
French has a unique story-telling style that may not suit all readers––particularly if your preference is for short, action-filled scenes. French constructs her stories as if building a castle, stone by stone.
Both novels I read had female protagonists struggling to following their intuition and not the rules set for them by their male counterparts. This is done without preaching which I appreciate.
In The Likeness French sets the story around a unique set of circumstances––the victim of a murder bares an uncanny resemblance to a former member of the Murder Squad, a specialist in going underground in disguise. In this instance, Cassie Maddox doesn’t have to go in disguise; instead she has to play the dead woman in hopes that she won’t give herself away to the dead woman’s friends and that the murderer will reveal himself. The story unfolds slowly as French explores a variety of themes in the relationship of her protagonist, the dead woman’s friends and the cops, one of whom she is dating.
The Trespasser is built around conflict among with members of the Murder Squad. Antoinette and her partner are given a difficult case that draws the attention of the rest of the squad, some of whom would rather Antoinette confess her inadequacy and move on.
Both stories are carefully constructed playing on the psychological drama featuring the protagonist. In The Trespasser Antoinette must overcome the hostility of other detectives; In The Likeness, Cassie must resist being a puppet for one of the detectives in order to chart her own course to the solution. French’s female protagonists battle stereotypes and personal doubts while refusing to give up when the situations look bleak. She was won awards for her writing and is well on her way to join the pantheon of superior British isle authors.