I had the good fortune to begin reading The Searcher, Tana French’s new standalone novel, last Wednesday, Veterans Day. I was off for the holiday and let myself dig in, forgetting any other responsibilities for a while. And then we were off for the tropical storm the following day so I was able to indulge some more. I finished it Saturday, taking my time with the last chapter, savoring it and holding my breath for the ending. Would it be happy? Vague? Realistic?
I won’t ruin anything but the ending was completely satisfying and exactly what I hoped for.
French’s past novels have all revolved around detectives in the ‘Dublin Murder Squad,’ with different characters taking the lead in each novel. None of them make an appearance here, but there are still some common themes. The searcher is Cal, a recently retired Chicago cop, recently divorced as well. He’s moved to Ireland in a bid to begin again, sold on the cheap real estate and romantic landscapes.
Ireland is as much a character as any person in this book. The novel starts and ends with nature: rooks and rabbits, brambly paths and open fields where sheep graze, the sky, the stars, the rain. Everything is described and noted with love, respect, awe and appreciation. Some of the best parts of this book are these nature musings. The wind, golden light, thick bogs; it’s all so vivid and emotional. Cal notices the beauty around him, respects it, and learns from it.
Cal was hoping for peace and quiet, time to fix his place up, do some fishing and have the occasional pint at the local tavern. But then Trey shows up, a scrappy, defiant and curious kid who eventually lets on his true purpose: to get the newcomer ex-cop to help find his missing brother. So The Searcher is a mystery, sure, but it’s so much more.
French’s writing is sheer bliss. The story unfolds at a perfect pace with each character becoming more clear with each interaction. The characters are familiar but never stereotypical. So many scenes play out like the movie version in your mind. The bar scene where Cal tries the local moonshine glows. An epic standoff involving the kid plays out like a scene in True Grit or The Cowboys.
Travel in real life may be on hold right now, but you can lose yourself in an Irish village for a while. Settle in with some strong tea or a pint, and dive into one of the best books you’ll read this year. You’ll smile, your heart will ache a little, you’ll get twisted and you’ll crave a walk in an Irish mist. It’ll be grand.