Book Review – The Searcher by Tana French – Slowbuilding Mystery
My Rating 4 out of 5
Plot Summary – The Searcher
From the hustle and bustle of Chicago, Cal Hooper – after 25 years of service and then voluntary retirement from the Chicago Police Department, moves to the remote village of Ardnakelty, in Western Ireland – to spend his retirement years in quiet and solitude. His daughter, Alyssa, has grown up and his wife Donna is separated from him, so there’s nothing holding him back from moving to another country, for good.
Life in Ireland is slow and laid-back, especially away from the urban centers, and Cal is happy with the privacy and solitude he gets. He sets about repairing the house he’s purchased, which has been lying unoccupied for decades. His neighbors are friendly and helpful, the landscape around him is soothing and the weather currently is pleasant too. Nothing can go wrong, right? Wrong!
A local child Trey, all of thirteen years, comes looking for Cal’s help in finding his missing brother Brendan, who’s been missing for almost a year. Trey, the reticent member of a socially marginalized family, whose father has deserted them many years ago, takes his time opening up to Cal with his request. Cal doesn’t want to get involved and initially is convinced that Brendan has also escaped to the City like his father, and will eventually come back in his own time.
But Trey is persistent and wants Cal to use his cop skills to find out what happened to his brother. Cal starts his investigation, albeit reluctantly, but soon realizes that the boy may not be totally wrong in his assumption as to the fact that Brendan has gone missing, possibly not of his own accord. The small village, simple and uncomplicated looking on the surface, has its own secrets to hide, as Cal is about to find out.
The local pub, Sean Og’s, is the epicenter of the local nightlife and also where a lot of questions that Cal has, can be answered, but on the contrary, it raises more questions. Meanwhile, Ms. French spends quite some time building Cal’s life in flashbacks. He’s from North Carolina and has spent 30 years in Chicago and the dogged pursuit of his career seems to have caused the disintegration of his marriage and distancing from his only child.
The growing distance with his daughter, which he rues constantly, is a familiar thing. The point where the child grows up into a teeenager and then an adult, is a blurred line which most fathers fail to make sense of and alienate themselves from their daughters. There is a lot in Cal’s life which many readers will identify with and the release that he seeks in his quest to solve the mystery behind Brendan’s disappearance, also resonates. When one is troubled by the hurdles of ones’ own personal life, you tend to seek relief in immersing yourself in work – whatever form it may take. That is exactly what Cal does.
Conclusion – The Searcher
This is the first novel by Tana French that I read, and not having read the series of novels that make up the Dublin Murder Squad, I wasn’t sure what to expect. She is an excellent writer who spends a lot of time building up the characters and the setting (a little too much in my opinion) and that slows down the story substantially. Once you finish reading, you realize that this book could possibly have been much shorter in length and tauter to read!
Only in the last 25-30% of The Searcher, does the speed of narrative pick up, and the story kind of rushes towards the climax! There are enough twists, suspense, and surprises to keep the reader invested till the very end of the novel. While I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Searcher, the buildup takes far too much time and around the middle part, one does tend to wonder when this novel will get around to business! The ending also leaves a lot unsaid and untended to, which feels a lot like a letdown….