The Trespasser

trespasserAntoinette Conway is a detective on the Murder Squad. She and her partner, Steve Moran, have been given what looks like another boring domestic case: a woman, punched in the jaw, lies dead on the hearth of her home. The boyfriend is the obvious suspect, and normally there wouldn’t be any reason to look farther than the slam-dunk. But Antoinette gets a whiff of something strange about the case, and she refuses to let it go.

The Trespasser is the most recent of French’s books about the Murder Squad, each told from a different first-person narrative voice. This time, the voice was Antoinette’s, and it’s that voice that turns this book into more than just a good thriller. (Though I’ll take a good thriller any day!)

Antoinette (whom we met in French’s last book, The Secret Place) is tough and utterly unsentimental. She’s been at odds with her squad ever since her arrival two years ago, and the barrage of ugly pranks and sidelong glances and whispers has her passion for the job turning sour — something she never thought could happen. Her anger has also given her toughness an edge of abrasion and unfriendliness, and she’s finding it harder and harder to interview witnesses without scaring them off. She relies on Steve for that, his winsome and wounded good-cop face.

The thing that Antoinette resists most fiercely is being owned. She doesn’t want to be drawn into someone else’s story; she doesn’t want to take favors; she doesn’t want to have anyone else determine the course of her life. She knows, at some level, that her defensiveness against her squad has bled into paranoia, and that her conviction that everything is a grand conspiracy against her wouldn’t stand up to investigation. But she can’t let go of it, because it would mean letting go of her own understanding of how things are. Everything around her gets cast in this light: one woman against the world, and sometimes even against her trusted partner. At first, Antoinette despises the dead woman, Aislinn, for her prettiness and her weakness. But as the story evolves, we see — and then Antoinette sees — that the two women have more in common than they thought.

I had a few quibbles with this book. For one thing, there are too many flat characters. French doesn’t give anyone but the protagonist room to grow or change. No one has a sense of humor, either. For another, this book (like several of the others) is too long at nearly 500 pages. The constant return to Antoinette’s paranoia, digging into the same small plot of self-awareness, eventually gets tedious, and there’s one absolutely embarrassing scene in the middle of the book that should just have been cut. And — just a thought — all her victims in six books so far, except one, have been women and children. Surely this isn’t representative.

That said, I enjoyed most of this book (though I skimmed through some of the middle.) I generally like Tana French quite a bit, and I’ll keep reading. Have you read any of her novels? What do you think?

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9 Responses to The Trespasser

  1. whatmeread says:

    How funny. I am reviewing this book next week, I think. I have read all of French’s books and liked most of them.

    • Jenny says:

      I have liked them all, too, but some aspects of them are getting a little weary for me, I think. Still, they stand out above a lot of what’s out there. I’ll look forward to your review!

      • whatmeread says:

        I think I am less likely to tire of them because they keep changing the main character, although I do think that some are better than others. I almost always get tired of series that have the same main character.

      • Jenny says:

        That’s interesting! I read, or have read, several series with the same main character, and only Lord Peter Wimsey and Holmes/Russell never seem to pall. I agree that French’s decision to change the main character was a very engaging one.

  2. readerlane says:

    I’m a few books behind — Faithful Place was the last one I read, but in general, I think many mysteries are way too long for what the author does with all those pages. A friend of mine blames it on lack of editting, but I don’t know.

    • Jenny says:

      I like to read older mysteries — Golden Age mysteries, or even ones from the 1960s and 70s — partly because they tend to be much more succinct. Ed McBain is a staple of the police procedural, and K.C. Constantine is a terrific author, and both can complete a snappy, exciting mystery in about 150-180 pages.

      • readerlane says:

        Robert Barnard is another author with good, short mysteries. I’m a big K.C. Constantine fan…maybe I should reread him since it’s been awhile.

  3. russell1200 says:

    I read Denise Mina’s Scottish Noir “Still Midnight” and liked it a lot. The reason I note that is because some reviewers of her books mentioned Tana French, so I had been looking at this book. I can see the similarities: at least at a facile level.

    • Jenny says:

      I have never read anything by Denise Mina (I thought I had, but I see I have her confused with Minette Walters.) I should give one a try — thanks for the recommendation!

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