Review of The Trespasser, by Tana French


You know an author has an established reputation when her name appears on the dust jacket in larger type than the title of the book & here it’s appropriate: you’ll read The Trespasser because it is by Tana French, not for the characters or relationships. Our narrator is Antoinette Conway, whom we’ve already met in The Secret Place. As we expect, she continues to be exceedingly unpleasant & to excel @ playing the bullying interviewer. When she uses her ‘good cop’ routine, she calls it her ‘Cool Girl’ persona – it’s the only evidence in the story that she’s ever read a book BTW). Stephen Moran, the sympathetic & humane member of their team, makes his third appearance. Conway simply uses the letter D to indicate ‘detective’ (too lazy to spell it out apparently) tho’ the way most the male members (sorry, couldn’t resist!) of the squad behave, I kept thinking of another word. Which fits Conway; she’s a total potty mouth. (Still trying to figure out if there’s a semantic difference between ‘shit’ & ‘shite’ in Irish usage.) But tho’ Conway lacks a soul, I admired her more than ‘Scorcher’ Kennedy of Broken Harbour, perhaps because unlike Broken Harbour, The Trespasser offers a villain who deserves an avenging Fury for a D.

A sign of an excellent author is that her lesser works cast new light on her best, & that was true for me here. As in The Likeness, we have the victim – here Aislinn Murray – as the most interesting character. That made me rethink The Likeness. I’d thought Cassie Maddox was my favourite of French’s characters (& she is in In the Woods) but now I believe that who I really loved best was not Cassie Maddox when she is just being herself, but Cassie Maddox when she is performing Lexie Madison. In The Trespasser it is the victim herself who goes undercover, giving herself a total makeover in order to accomplish a goal that may seem an obsession & she puts herself into the role even more completely than Cassie. Ironically it is surrendering to her true self & true love that precipitates Aislinn’s murder. I also like Aislinn’s friend Lucy in a supporting role as confidante.

But whilst you’d not read The Trespasser for attractive characters, it is beautifully plotted. As in other of Tana French’s novels, you’ll get bit tired of chasing red herrings If you’re an experienced reader you’ll spot them. (You’ve also learned never to co-operate with the interrogators; they’re out to stitch you up & don’t care who did it so long as they get their solves.) It’s not perfect – there’s a subplot involving Antoinette’s father I found distracting – yet the last third of the book when everything starts fitting together is utterly unputdownable. And I was pleased by the discovery of the villain whom I quite despised, unlike in some other of Tana French’s novels where I would have let them get away with it.

The Trespasser is the sixth in the Dublin Murder Squad series. I rank them, in decreasing order as follows: The Likeness & The Secret Place in a virtual tie for 1st, both tragic & poignant with beautiful relationships, but with the presence of Cassie as narrator perhaps making the difference. Then In the Woods, especially for Cassie tho’ Rob is such a total mess I cannot bring myself to read it again. Followed by Faithful Place; Frank is an excellent & attractive character but his father & mother are utterly repulsive for me. Then I’d place this one, with Broken Harbour last, but still a solid four star. What to give The Trespasser? I’d give it five stars for plot but Conway’s potty mouth effectively forestalls reading it again & costs one star.

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