(#6, Dublin Murder Squad series)
Antoinette Conway, the (outwardly) tough detective fans of Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad books met in The Secret Place (2014) is back, still on the Murder squad, but just barely. And she isn’t too happy: “I want to go home, go for a run stick something in the microwave and fry my brain with shite telly, and then get some sleep before I have to do it all over again.”
She’s now partnered with Stephen Moran, which seems to be working: “At first I didn’t like him—everyone else did, and I don’t trust people who everyone likes, plus he smiled too much.” She not only doesn’t get along with the rest of the squad, there is a (harassment filled) campaign among the other detectives to get rid of her. The story opens as a case that looks like a classic lovers’ quarrel gone wrong is handed to Conway and Moran and (as Tana French does so well) events begin to unfold that reveal there is LOTS more going on than meets the eye. Conway and Moran need to figure out whether this is possibly related to the campaign to oust her.
I love the way French captures the atmosphere: when they investigate a scene, “…somewhere across the river there could be shoeprints waiting for us, or cigarette butts with DNA on them – but it’s freezing and damp, a fine haze haloing the lamps, the kind of damp that soaks in and settles till you feel like your bones are colder than the air around you.”
The case involves the murder of Aislinn (“Ash-lynn”) Murray, who was until recently a very sheltered young woman. She came out of her shell in a big way, transformed into a woman who made men obsessed – and it ended with her murder. Along the way, Conway’s view of Aislinn evolves: “Anyone who turns herself into Barbie because that’s the only way she feels worthwhile needs a kick up the hole, but someone who does it for a revenge mission deserves a few points for determination.” And Moran calls Conway out on her attitude and relationship with the Squad: “…you’re so set on going down in flames, you’d make it happen even if the entire force loved you to bits. You’ll light your own bloody self on fire if you have to. And then you can pat yourself on the back and tell yourself you knew it all along. Congratulations.”
The interrogation scenes are amazing, and I can’t help liking Conway despite her prickly exterior. I’ve been thinking about this book for a couple of weeks now, trying to figure out why I liked it less than French’s previous books. Another reviewer said, “the magic of previous installments is missing,” and while I have no idea what that means, it sounds right!
I still love Tana French, and will eagerly grab her next book, but this one gets four stars from me, along with thanks to NetGalley and Viking for an advance copy in exchange for my honest review.