The Trespasser
Tana French
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The Trespasser
Tana French
464 pages
October 2016
rated 5 of 5 possible stars

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Click here to read reviewer Michael Leonard's take on The Trespasser.

French is a contemporary Irish writer with a legion of fans who anticipate her next novel before finishing the last. With a solid list of well-crafted thrillers, she has managed to capture the character of that country, embellished with the unique protagonists who inhabit each tale, from the earlier In the Woods to the more recent The Secret Place. The Trespasser reintroduces Detective Antoinette Conway and her partner, Steve Moran, of Dublin’s Murder Squad. Conway has dreamed of being part of the exclusive Murder Squad since she first joined the force.

That dream has become a reality, albeit tainted with the unwelcoming attitude of her fellow detectives, who don’t appreciate Conway’s reaction to the rudeness they shower on the only female on the squad. Antoinette suspects her partner would have an easier time fitting into the “boy’s club” without her, but so far Steve has remained loyal in spite of the fact that he suffers the same disrespect accorded his partner. Both are aware they are outcasts, the subject of private jokes, and recipients of the least interesting assignments. It’s a weighty burden for Conway, always on the verge of an outburst and chronically unwilling to bear the scorn of the rest of the squad. She hasn’t yet mastered her reactions, tension increasing whenever she enters the squad room anticipating an adverse reaction, even when leading a case.

Conway’s predicament comes into harsh relief with the death of Aislinn Murray, possibly the victim of domestic violence. Given the case just before the end of shift, Conway and Moran are first to arrive at the scene, Antoinette appointed lead detective, to be joined later by the more seasoned (and popular) Detective Don Breslin. Breslin is the department star, the favorite of both squad and bosses, with a high solve rate and a larger-than-life personality. Conway will find her authority challenged at every turn by Breslin’s interference and the unrelenting hostility of the other detectives. And while the victim’s new boyfriend appears to be the most likely suspect, Conway resists the push for an easy solve, even when everyone else is convinced that the boyfriend, Rory Fallon, is the culprit.

Conway and Moran dig in, demanding every possibility be examined before making an arrest, even as Fallon’s alibi seems to weaken with each new revelation. The pressure builds on two fronts: Conway’s insistence on building a solid case, and the partners’ growing suspicion of Breslin’s motives in pushing for Rory’s immediate arrest. Given her general unhappiness and lack of friends in the department, Conway endures more than the usual gloomy thoughts.

Though Moran has adapted to his partner’s personality fairly well, her growing paranoia has pushed him farther away during this case, less able to tolerate her natural suspicion. Not a particularly pleasant protagonist in this outing, Conway has good reason for her lack of trust, a trait exacerbated by the young woman’s murder, the detective receiving unexpected insights into Aislinn’s final days. As a carefully-wrought character, Antoinette plays a pivotal role in the drama, a lead actress in an above-average mystery.

The victim’s role is rich and multi-layered, a beauty caught in circumstances that belie the façade of a desirable woman inhabiting a world more mysterious than its appearance. There are no one-dimensional figures in this tale, whether victim, perpetrator, or investigator. Rather, the obvious turns mysterious, the true false, and the answer ultimately a revelation that reconfigures Conway’s expectations of the future. As usual, a beautifully-calibrated story of crime, punishment and unexpected consequences.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Luan Gaines, 2016

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