Click here to read reviewer Michael Leonard's take on The Searcher.
Calvin Hooper comes to the west of Ireland, specifically Ardnekelty Village, prepared to start anew after 25 years with the Chicago P.D. With a family connection to a piece of land, Cal is rebuilding a rundown cottage with sufficient acreage to seal off the past, the cacophony of a teeming city, ambulance, police sirens, the incessant honking of impatient drivers, the utter absence of nature save a faraway moon in a starless sky. Closing the door on a failed marriage, a close relationship with his adult daughter is the only emotional tie Cal is committed to sustaining.
Surrounded by acres of land, Cal's closest neighbor is the genial Mart, a weathered bachelor who offers assistance with introductions, which shops to frequent, and the best bar to soak up local lore, sometimes sample the strongest homemade liquor available. Crime has not bypassed the village, but all do their best to watch out for one another. Gossip is plentiful, would-be romantic matches made by concerned ladies who appreciate the value of community.
Alone at night, savoring the particular sounds of his new world, Cal strives to understand the boundaries and respect the secrets of the village he has made his home. His outreach is tentative and friendly, keeping comfortably to himself, sorting the chores each day, the sanding, mending years of neglect, the gradual shaping of the future. He does sense, at times, that someone is watching him. Beyond the unfamiliar weight of the dark, the subtle sounds of night creatures, another set of eyes, most likely human, track his every move.
When ready, the intruder steps forward, not threatening but not friendly either. It is a shaggy-haired young teen, Trey Reddy. Growing more familiar with the personality of the newcomer, Trey asks Cal to teach him how to do some of the repairing, practice the skills and tools that mend and paint and turn a dilapidated shack into a place to live. Feeling brave one afternoon , Trey begs to learn how to shoot Cal's rifle and is forced to obey the safety rules if he hopes ever to carry the rifle. The days pass. Temperamental at best, Trey's moodiness ebbs and flows, Cal unsure of the parameters of a relationship with the kid.
Eventually, Trey blurts out what he really needs from Cal: Trey's brother Brendan, nineteen, has disappeared, not run away from the island but nowhere to be found. Trey is relentless, nagging, pleading, demanding Cal help him find Brendan, at the same time relieving a mother's worry. Her husband gone, Maeve Reddy raises her kids alone without complaint, but she is fearful about the fate of her oldest son.
Reluctantly, Cal agrees to see what he can discover about Brendan, willing to make inquiries while avoiding gossip about the "newcomer's" activities. Sympathetic to his young friend's distress, Cal is thrust exactly into the kind of complicated situation he had hoped to avoid, drawn into a mystery laden with threat--not to mention serious consequences--hoping at least to offer Trey some closure about Brendan's sudden disappearance.
In fulfilling his promise to Trey, Cal faces choices that affect his potential future in Ireland, reaching deeply into his past mistakes, good and bad, the values that have defined him. For peace of mind, Cal clings to the pure simplicity of his daily life, welcoming monotonous routines, soothed by the sounds that accompany his solitary hours, attuned to nature's language, sometimes abrupt like the screeching of prey brought to ground, others familiar. The feel of the sun beating on his back, a breeze gently shuffling through the trees, or the steady drumbeat of rainfall tether Cal to this place, home, an intricate patchwork of changing perspectives, dawn to night.
From the first day of his arrival, Cal has been listening, attentive, learning the boundaries of both land and human, where friendliness is earned, curiosity unabated and carelessness dangerous, sometimes deadly. Trey is a challenge, Cal unsure, constantly searching, sometimes begrudgingly, for a place for his world-weary young friend. Place becomes a character, the dramatic, abundant countryside shape-shifting, keeping its own secrets. Lessons learned the hard way, Cal comes to understand that mans' behavior is not so different, albeit on a smaller scale, the human heart sometimes tortured, often cruel, twisted by life but resilient, even forgiving. Truth is purchased at a high price, the lessons precious and lasting: "Whatever people do, right up to the killing, nature absorbs it, closes over the fissures and goes on about its own doings."
The Searcher is a simple tale but rich and deep, constantly surprising. Like the rooks gathering daily in the tree outside Cal's cottage to monitor and scold the efforts of his labor, life goes on.