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The Trespasser by Tana French
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The Trespasser (2016)

by Tana French

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Tana French is known for smart police procedurals using an ensemble of detectives working in Dublin rather than a single hero as most of her contemporaries do. She fills her stories with abundant insider information and human touches on police routines, relying on detail and deduction over pyrotechnics. Although hers are definitely crime novels, they never fail to have broader themes. In THE TRESPASSER, French explores father-daughter relationships, feminism, misogyny, and police corruption.

Both narrator and victim have experienced childhood abandonment by their fathers and this plays important roles in their behavior and the crime. In the case of Detective Antoinette Conway this manifests as intelligence and striving in the face of harassment and rejection. While Aislinn Murray displays a manic need for revenge.

Conway is a minority woman who has chosen to work in a traditionally male occupation. She responds to her outsider and loner status by being tough, volatile, and angry. Her ironic sense of humor and unfailing competence at both listening and questioning give her a distinctive and compelling voice.

The “vic” is Aislinn Murray, a pretty young receptionist who was not always so. Conway remembers her from a previous stint in missing persons when Aislinn presented in search of her missing father. Her body was found in her Stoneybatter flat (interesting choice of name, considering the cause of death) with her skull bashed in. The prime suspect is her new boyfriend, Rory Fallon. Rory is a shy bookshop owner, who seems to have a touch of OCD. Detective Breslin, a seasoned cop tasked with keeping an eye on Conway and her partner Moran, wants nothing more than a “quick solve.” So he plays a host of mind games designed to get the rookies to arrest Rory. But Conway and Moran see too many inconsistencies to buy into Breslin’s game (e.g., a largely circumstantial case against Rory, the unreliability of Aislinn’s best friend, lingering doubts that the young detectives were assigned the case just to get it cleared quickly, and the professional way that the crime scene was wiped, including turning off the cooker).

French manages to send the duo down a few blind alleys in solving this one. A putative mobster boyfriend, a dark figure stalking Conway’s flat, Aislinn’s father’s missing person file, a neighbor’s report of a strange figure leaping the wall behind Aislinn’s flat, and Breslin’s curiously elegant lifestyle work admirably to keep one guessing.

All of French’s hallmarks are present in THE TRESPASSER giving it a strong sense of place and reality that is often lacking in many crime thrillers. These include elements of day-to-day detective work, interrogational tricks, use of both cop and Irish jargon, dark humor, petty jealousies including obstructionism and backbiting, camaraderie like calling in favors from colleagues, and the use of striving junior detectives for mindless work like timing how long it takes for someone to go from a nearby grocery store to the crime scene at both leisurely and quick paces. ( )
  ozzer | Apr 19, 2017 |
This was by no means a disappointment generally, but it did lack a certain frisson of the uncanny, usually associated with semi-magical childhood memories, that I've come to look for from French. There's a bit of the potential for that sort of thing here--in the victim's and the protagonist's backstory--but French pretty explicitly and pretty soundly rejects going there. Perhaps this represents a transition away from French's sentimental attachment to the Ireland of the last century (poor, crowded yet depopulated, dysfunctional, narrow-minded, communal). From a rational standpoint perhaps reason to rejoice, but it does remove a cool facet from her work. I was hoping that she'd explore the attractions and horrors of that old Ireland a bit less sentimentally rather than out and out reject it and move on, which seems to be the drift here. Maybe later?

But there are few popular novelists worth talking about in these sorts of terms. That gives you a sense of the attractions of her writing. ( )
  ehines | Apr 16, 2017 |
The best of the Dublin Murder Squad series. Conway and Moran work through lots of issues (and a few red herrings) to get to a surprising ending. I'm wondering who will be the narrator/protagonist in the next volume. ( )
  Doondeck | Apr 11, 2017 |
Detective Antoinette Conway and her partner Stephen Moran are assigned to investigate the murder of a young woman in her apartment. The woman is "blond, pretty, groomed to shine, and dead in her catalog-perfect living room next to a table set for a romantic dinner. Suspicion immediately falls on her dinner date for the evening, Rory Fallon. The senior detective assigned to "help" Conway and Moran concludes the case should be wrapped up in a day. Conway and Moran believe there the case is more complicated that it appears on the surface.

I found it hard to get into "The Trespasser." I picked it up because Tana French has developed a reputation as an outstanding mystery writer. Perhaps so, but I found the protagonist hard to like and the mystery rather mediocre. As a consequence I struggled for more than a week, repeatedly picking up the book and putting it down after a few pages.

Conway is estranged from the rest of her colleagues in the murder squad but she has an amiable relationship with her partner and the crime scene technicians. Our introduction to Conway occurs via an extended self-talk demonstrating that she is clever, alienated and paranoid. Initially French provides no explanation for Conway's rather extreme alienation and paranoia. Then Conway admits to herself that the murder squad is a sexually hostile environment. She immediately disavows that as not the cause of the hostile treatment she is receiving. Instead, she refers to herself as Brownish and concludes that her alienation is the result of a power struggle to see who will be the Alpha dog. That explanation is unconvincing.

To add to the problem, the mystery is not convincing. Fallon is not believable as a suspect. French depicts him as weak-willed, passive and naively revealing. He sits through a long, long interview, during which he is insulted repeatedly, but he just hangs his head and submissively answers questions. It seems rather obvious that he is not the guilty party, but the only alternatives are a rumored boyfriend—who may be a gangster—and Conway's suspicion that one of the members of the murder squad is involved.

The Trespasser could have been improved in any number of ways. A less flawed, more likeable, more interesting protagonist would help greatly. Conway is a rather boring character. Eliminating the character flaws would have allowed French to focus on crafting a more interesting, multifaceted mystery. For example, an intriguing possibility, given how unconvincing Fallon is as the primary suspect, would be to craft a Keyser Soze reveal. Doing so without cheating the reader would require skillfully providing the necessary clues that would allow perceptive readers to solve the mystery themselves. That takes careful thought and skillful plotting. If French had chosen this path "The Trespasser" could ranks among the best mysteries of the ear. Instead, French has given us an unlikeable protagonist and a boring mystery. ( )
  Tatoosh | Apr 11, 2017 |
A thread is woven throughout this novel that gets brighter and more dominant as the drama plays out: how do the stories we tell ourselves and those around us shape our realities? It seems that everyone has a story as the investigation kicks off - the two main detectives have both the murder to sort out and the pressure they are getting in their own squad. And then there is the expected but at the same time so satisfying turn of perspective at the end. I especially appreciated the atmosphere of paranoia that Ms. French builds in this book - it ebbs and flows, never fully taking over, but lending uncertainty in the reader of just what is going on. ( )
  tjsjohanna | Apr 10, 2017 |
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For Oonagh
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My ma used to tell me stories about my da.
Chapter 1: The case comes in, or anyway it comes in to us, on a frozen dawn in the kind of closed-down January that makes you think the sun's never going to drag itself back above the horizon.
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Where I'm seeing a dead end, he's seeing a brilliant new twist to his amazing story. I wish I could take my holidays inside Steve's head.
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Book description
There's the murder squad you set your sights on, back at the beginning of your career: the one where you spend your day playing knife-edge mind-games with psychopathic geniuses, knowing that one wrong blink could mean the difference between victory or another dead body.

And there's the one you actually work on, when you're the squad pariah. The night shifts. The vicious jabs and the pranks that go too far. Processing scumbags and matching witness statements, sifting the dregs for the case that might get you closer to where you want to be.

Tonight's case isn't it. Uniforms call it in as a slam-dunk domestic. except when Conway takes a good look at the victim's face, she realises she's seen her somewhere before. And suddenly the conviction that there's a different answer takes her breath away.

THIS IS THE CASE SHE IMAGINED. PRECISION-CUT AND SAVAGE, LITHE AND MOMENTOUS

BUT YOU CAN BEAT ONE KILLER. BEATING YOUR OWN SQUAD IS A WHOLE OTHER THING.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0670026336, Hardcover)

A brilliant new novel from the New York Times bestselling author, whom Gillian Flynn calls "mesmerizing" and Stephen King calls "incandescent."
 

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?

(retrieved from Amazon Tue, 12 Apr 2016 09:06:33 -0400)

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