The Trespasser, by Tana French

trespasserTitle: The Trespasser

Author: French, Tana (Author’s Website)

Genre: Police procedural, suspense

Bibliographic: Viking, 464 pages, Hardcover List Price $27.00, Audiobook List Price $38.50, Audiobook CD List Price $55.00 ISBNs 9780670026333, 9781524708672, 9780735221093

Publication Date: October 4, 2016

Rating: ★★★★★/♥♥♥♥♡ (The rating scale is here).

Appeal Factors: Psychological, first-person narrative, complex, fast-paced, suspenseful, compelling, dialect-filled

Why I picked it up: I’ve read the first five books in the series, and loved all but one of them.

S.I.A.S.: Antionette Conway must solve the murder of Aislinn Murray, but the facts aren’t quite lining up.

Summary:  Detectives Antoinette Conway and Stephen Moran have been members of the Dublin Murder Squad for two years now, but things aren’t going especially well for them. Antoinette, in particular, is the subject of a constant barrage of pranks and other mischief from her fellow detectives, and in spite of their best efforts she and Stephen are given the worst of everything: the worst cases, the worst meeting rooms, and the worst shifts.

One morning, while coming off of the night shift, Antoinette and Stephen are given a case with a victim named Aislinn Murray, with the instruction to let another detective named Don Breslin help them out. Aislinn has been dead for several hours by the time the  detectives get there, but the fact that her body was lying right next to a fireplace makes it impossible to tell when. She has bruising on her jaw consistent with being punched, but she died from a head wound when her head hit the fireplace. Her apartment is totally clean: her furniture looks like a catalog, her decorations are generic, and there are no fingerprints to be found. Aislinn’s boyfriend, Rory Fallon, doesn’t look quite strong enough to have delivered the fatal blow. Furthermore, Antoinette is absolutely certain that she’s seen Aislinn somewhere before.

As the investigation gets underway, Antoinette and Stephen become increasingly convinced that they don’t have the whole story. Aislinn’s best friend is suggesting that she may have had another boyfriend, who might have been involved with a gang. Breslin and his partner, Joe McCann, are starting to look like they might be on the take. Their coworkers are growing increasingly hostile and making it increasingly uncomfortable for Antoinette. And Antoinette still can’t remember why she recognizes the victim. As Antoinette and Stephen get closer to solving the case, things grow increasingly fraught — and the end takes everyone by surprise.

Evaluation:  I love Tana French, and think that this is easily her best book yet. The writing is fantastic, and while there is a pretty heavy use of dialect I never had any trouble understanding it — the author weaves the dialect into the story in such a way that, even if you’ve never seen a particular word before (it was skanger, for me) you can at least figure out the sense of it even if you don’t quite know the nuance. The plot was very compelling, and I had trouble putting it down; I was reading it on Election Day, and couldn’t resist reading as the results came in — even though I was at a party.

The characters are very well-developed. I’ve already read the rest of the series, so I was familiar with the characters going in, but I don’t think that was necessary by any stretch of the imagination, which is typical for this series. I’ve even seen one fairly convincing argument that they are better read out of order, so I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this book to people who have never heard of Tana French.  I did figure out a part of the ending, but I was pretty proud of myself for doing so since it wasn’t the first option you’d suspect.

The title was perfect, and when you find out who the particular trespasser the title probably refers to is you’ll understand why it was chosen.

Significance: This is the sixth book in French’s popular Dublin Murder Squad series, which began with the hugely popular Into the Woods.

Readalikes: Now You See Me, by S.J. BoltonLittle Face, by Sophie HannahChristine Falls, by Benjamin Black.

Discussion Questions:

  1. There are several different characters in this book who could be considered to be trespassers — Rory was trespassing on Aislinn’s privacy, various individuals were looking through both Aislinn’s and Antoinette’s windows, and Antoinette herself may have felt like a trespasser on the well-established Murder Squad. To which of these do you think the title refers? Are there any more examples of trespassing in the novel?
  2. At what point in the book did you begin to figure out what had really happened? Did you figure it out before Antoinette did?
  3. On page 142, Antoinette explains her view of her interpersonal relationships. What did you think of this passage? Do you agree that it’s better to be a fully complete person without relying on others?
  4. How does Antoinette’s animosity towards the rest of the squad impact the investigation? Is she a reliable narrator, or is her storytelling colored by her anger?
  5. Talk about Antoinette’s relationship with her father. Why does she treat him the way she does? Would you have reacted the same way, in her shoes?

Lists and Awards:  LibraryReads Favorites (2016).

Professional Reviews:  Publishers Weekly. Kirkus. Irish Times. The Guardian. Washington Post. New York Times.

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