First published: 2016 Found: This month’s pick for a feminist book club Pages/read time: 469, six days
Danger doesn’t bother me. I’ll eat danger with a spoon.
Antoinette Conway is one tough cop. She’s got the smarts, the guts and the mouth to angle for a shot at being top cop on Dublin’s murder squad. However, having landed a place on the team a few years ago, she’s still one of the small fry. And she’s the only woman. And she’s the only person of colour. No surprises for guessing how many slags, pissed-on lockers, spat-in coffees and nicked-for-a-gag-report-sheets she has to deal with on the daily.
Luckily, her tall, pale, red-headed squad partner Steve Moran isn’t like that. At least, Conway hasn’t seen him try it on yet. But he’s new, and gets a fair amount of slagging himself. Conway knows they get the cases no one else wants. The simple or stupid: drunken brawls gone wrong, domestics turned deadly, drug-fuelled joy rides. No serial killers, mystery deaths, missing murder weapons or psychopath sadists. In short, they get the boring jobs. So pariah-ed are the pair that when the gaffer (boss) comes through the door at 5am with a domestic incident, Conway assumes they’ve been dealt another less-than-career-building crime. But the vic (victim) Aislinn Murray, hasn’t Conway seen her before? And the chief suspect Rory Fallon, isn’t he just too suspiciously fit for the crime? And why has the gaffer put smarmy-arsed murder squad veteran Don Breslin on them for ‘guidance’?
Aislinn Murray was out to fuck you over, you were thinking with your mickey, the whole thing went to shite. It that true? The whole five-star clusterfuck, it’s all because you weren’t getting enough blood flow to the brain?
The Trespasser by Tana French is apparently a thrilling crime novel; a work of high intensity from ‘one of best crime writers alive‘. According to this review by The Guardian it’s pretty much master-mind writer stuff. But here’s the thing – to an almost complete crime fiction novice like me, this is, well – I guess it’s pretty good?
We’ll get every out there look for backup evidence, we’ll throw the lot at Rory, and he’ll fold like a cheap lawn chair.
As a first step into the modern genre*, I would definitely call this a fun read. Her descriptions of body language and gestures are so exact that I often found myself pausing mid-page to mimic the wink, nod or shrug just described. The Dublin slang alone is enough to keep you reading. Jaysus. Bollix. Banjaxed. Gobshite. Bleeding shitehawk: poetry to the profane ear. (Looking up what a Greystones accent is meant to sound like just makes this even better.) Tana French churns out prose and dialogue with so many slags, similes and one-liners that a lesser writer might just faint with the effort. The impression is, however, that French is very self-aware of the constructs of her genre. The repartee of the quad room is so fluid to the point of farcical. The alliteration is almighty. The sentences. So short. Shorter. Sh.**
You got played man[.] Played like a pound-shop kazoo.
As previously mentioned, I have no idea what a good crime novel is supposed to be. So, in comparison to other works of fiction reviewed on this blog, I can only say that the plot seems to stagnate for a bit, the ‘big reveals’ don’t feel that big and the questioning sequences – though engaging the first few times – become a touch repetitive around the 200 page mark. But then French has the narrator (Conway) come out with a laconic observation like this, and the pace settles back into top gear:
The room feels charged up with too many stories, jostling in the corners, pushing for space.
Essentially, the level of awareness French gives to sexism and racism without devolving into tokenism is everything Wonder Woman (2017) should have been. So I guess, yes, this is a pretty good book. I’ll let you know if this is the right place to start reading modern crime novels when I’ve read some more.
Reading suggestion: Less suggestion than observation. Your spoken-simile rate will shoot up like a celebrity fresh out of rehab. Also, please someone tell me what ‘KA’ stands for. I know it means ‘next of kin’ but what are the actual Gaelic words? Google has no answers.
* I’d only read a few Poirot and Miss Marple mysteries before this.
**No, I am not deliberately writing this crime-style. It’s just happening. I can’t stop.