Wednesday, September 30, 2020

The Trespasser by Tana French

 The next Tana French publication always has me chomping at the bit, eager to read the latest goings on in the Dublin Murder Squad.

I was fortunate enough to get The Trespasser from the library shortly after it released. Honestly, in spite of some slow parts, I devoured it over a weekend. Rather than hash out a reiteration of other reviews and synopsis of the plot I’ll get to the pros and cons.

So, the previous book introduced Antoinette Conway and slid Stephen Moran back on to the scene. Moran was in Faithful Place as a minor character and had a bigger role in The Secret Place. I like him and hope to read more about him. Conway on the other hand was not a character I could warm up to. I just didn’t like her in the previous book so, to be honest, I was disappointed she held such a starring role in this book.

Midway through the book I thought it dragged a little. Too much talk and theorizing about gang connections (this will make sense when you read it) but then we turned a corner. The carrot is always dangling about who may have been the murderer and the guesses range from

1) The one they are focusing on is so obvious, it can’t be them,

2) If they are focusing on one person so much that it can’t be them, maybe that’s what the author wants you think and indeed…it is them,

3) You’ll be blindsided by a big revelation about 40 pages from the end and there is the ah-ha moment, the big reveal.

 photo inconceive_zpsmbozjayn.jpg

She has done that, a big twist, so you can’t rule anything out. By the end of the book I think I understood Conway better but I hope she won’t be in any future books.  Please, Ms. French, have Conway retire. The twist at the end was good. Well written with many theories and heated discussions between the detectives.

In the latter half of the book Detective Moran uses the phrase “tickety-boo” and I immediately remembered Joy writing about this on one of the British Isles Friday posts.  I’d never heard the term before and then it pops up in this novel.

Now I wait another 2 years for the next book in this series. That’s about how long it seems to take for publication. Personally I am hoping Cassie Maddox makes another appearance again.  Great character but….that was a different couple of books awhile back.

Do you read the Dublin Murder Squad series and if so, what is your favorite book in the lineup?

Friday, September 11, 2020

Scrublands by Chris Hammer


scrublandsI’ll say straight away that I liked this book and would read more by this author. There were a few things that I didn’t care for but overall, what a great plot. Anyone can read from the book cover/descriptor the story of a priest who guns down 5 men in front of his church. The journalist, Martin Scarsden, arrives in town to report on how the residents are coping a year after the tragedy. Martin is suffering from PTSD after an incident in the Gaza strip, his editor sending him out on this story to give him a chance to get back in the journo game. Why would an admired priest turn killer?

Best I can describe the way the story unfolds is to think of a nesting doll. There are layers and layers of stories that intertwine, the residents’ dark secrets, the greed, guilt and love and motivations of the characters. There are multiple crimes that are revealed in this investigative journalist’s report.
Some of the character names are a hoot – you have Harley Snouch and Mandalay “Mandy” Blonde who are supporting characters.

I’m learned about bush fires in the Scrubland, how they work, quite different from a house fire. Smoke inhalation gets you in a house fire but a bushfire flat out cooks you. This was addressed in another Australian book I enjoyed, Jane Harper’s debut book The Dry. The scenery described is almost apocalyptic, the land has a harshness and character of its own.

What I didn’t care for was how the character Codger Harris was introduced. He’s waaaay out in the Scrubland where it’s dry and extremely hot. When Martin arrives at Codger’s dilapidated house he finds the old man inside, naked and masturbating. Sorry but that part just didn’t fit into the story, it didn’t blend and it was an unnecessary detail to introduce us to Codger. It was established how unbearably hot it is, so much so that Codger didn’t wear clothes in this isolated part of the scrubland. By the way, he is an integral part of this story and has his own interesting past which dovetails with the ending.

The Secret Place by Tana French


The Secret Place is a 2014 novel by Tana French set in Ireland.   Anyone who knows me or frequents this blog knows I am a die-hard Tana French fan. I loved the four previous books.  In publication order they are:

In The Woods

The Likeness

Faithful Place

Broken Harbor

When Amazon put it on sale I snapped it up at the amazing price of $7.99 for my Paperwhite.  I couldn’t wait to read this book, number 5 in the Dublin Murder Squad series.

tana french dublin murder squad

There were various interesting discussions on Goodreads about the book as well as fellow bookworms chiming in about their favorites in the series.

I think the biggest turnoff for me was the high school girl babble.  Most of the book is set at St. Kilda’s, a girls’ boarding school in Dublin. The chapters alternate between the points of view of detective Stephen Moran and student Holly Mackey.

From Wikibecause it’s easier to use their synopsis and I’ll tell you my beefs later…..:

“The key characters are eight teenage girls, members of rival cliques. Chris Harper, a teenage boy, is murdered on St. Kilda’s grounds. The initial police investigation is inconclusive. A year later, 16-year-old Holly volunteers information to Moran. She has discovered a picture of Chris, along with the statement “I know who killed him”, posted on a school bulletin board called the “Secret Place”. Moran is assigned to work with senior detective Antoinette Conway to investigate. Moran and Conway question all eight girls and find that there were some close relationships between Chris and most of the eight girls. After further investigation, they find evidence that links Chris’s murder to Holly’s clique. When the detectives grill Holly, her father, detective Frank Mackey, intervenes and complicates the investigation.”

About 20% of the way into the book I was ready to pull my hair out.  I was very much concerned I would start talking like so many people I overhear these days. Such as:

OMGGGG, I’m like, so into his style and, like, seriously….why would anyone wear that color combination *giggle giggle giggle* shrieks of teen-aged laughter.  I’m like, just go talk to him.  And she’s like, noooooo, I couldn’t.


The use of “like” and “goes” (in place of He Said or I Replied) is prevalent these days. There are some adults at my work place who talk  this way. What happened to proper English?

That being said, Tana French is brilliant in her research and getting it down how many teenagers speak these days. It was a believable interview between detective Moran and any of the young women he questioned.  I personally had enough by the 25% mark.  that’s investing a bit of time and I kept on because Tana French is an amazing author.  I love her.

The other thing that bothered me was I only liked Detective Moran.  Antoinette Conway was such a bitch and again, well written Ms. French, the portrayal was spot on evoking my dislike of her.  So, being completely honest, I skimmed through much of the book from there on out, only dedicating myself to the detectives and Holly Mackey because they weren’t driving me slap crazy.

Since I read how it all shook out, who left the note on The Secret Place and found out who killed Chris – I could see there were some great twists in the book.  This just wasn’t for me.  If it were the first book I read by French I may never have read others.

So, since the Goodreads community stated their favorites I have to say, The Likeness was one of mine.  And Frank Mackey in both The Likeness and Faithful Place is my favorite detective.

I am very excited about the sixth book, The Trespasser, set to be released later this year.

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Friday on my Mind and Dark Saturday by Nicci French



Friday on my Mind: This is the fifth book in the Frieda Klein series. It starts with a bloated corpse floating down the Thames River. Once the police have pulled the body out of the water they check for identification but discover there is no wallet or cell phone. The fully clothed body of the man has a hospital band which reads Dr. F. Klein.

Frieda is now a suspect in a murder.

It’s complicated being Frieda’s friend.” Reuben made that statement as a group of her friends and supporters were gathering, trying to figure out where she was. Frieda is accused of murder in this book and we are introduced to a new cast of detectives from the Metropolitan Police Department. My favorite detective, Malcolm Karlsson, is still making appearances in this series. Also a shadowy sort of character named Levin sits in and observes on an investigation. Not sure where he will fit in, reminds you of a CIA characters i movies.

Frieda puts me in mind of a more polished, cooler version of Jessica Fletcher of the Murder She Wrote stories. There is always a murder connecting and threading itself into her life. It’s not a cozy mystery for sure. I was sad to read this one as I liked the character who departed.

Foodie stuff….

“She went to the shops and bought herself enough for the next few days; milk, bread and butter, some bags of salad and Sicilian tomatoes, salty blue cheese, smoked salmon, raspberries and a little carton of cream.

Once home, she had a long bath, then roamed through each room, making doubly sure everything was in its proper place. She ate smoked salmon on rye bread and drank a single glass of white wine.”

Dark SatDark Saturday: This one started off so slow I almost didn’t get going. But then…..glad I finished it. Perfect ending to bring you into the Sunday book (which I read first ).

Freida Klein owes someone a favor and it’s time to collect. This rather shadowy character named Levin (who may or may not be involved with the Metropolitan Police) helped her out once. He’s very mysterious. Anyway, in return he wants her to evaluate a mental patient. This patient, Hannah Docherty, was accused of murdering her family 10 years prior. She is now in an institution, old before her time and clearly is being abused.

When Frieda is called upon to give an assessment she comes to the conclusion that Hannah may well have been innocent. Naturally this stirs up a hornets nest with the Commissioner of the Met Police, a man who seems to have a serious and unreasonable dislike of Frieda. Now add some eerie events which may or may not involve Dean Reeve, a stalker the police believe is dead. It gets real in this book!

Food and drink

Josef was cooking some rich, meaty casserole and Reuben was smoking a cigarette and drinking red wine out of a vast goblet.

A conversation between Reuben and Frieda after he has been diagnosed with cancer:

You’d be irritatingly stoical, not me. No one is going to say he lost his brave fight against cancer, “said Reuben.
“You haven’t lost it yet, anyway.” is Frieda’s reply….
“They’re not going to say that because I’m not in a fucking battle. I’m the battleground. That’s what. You remember that. Dying isn’t a moral failure, it’s not a sign of weakness.”

“I agree.”

“Good. Wine?”


I totally get Reuben here. Been there.

Another quote – this (to me) is a great description when the murderer’s identity is revealed and how the person reacts after some bluffing and bravado:

Frieda had seen dynamite demolish buildings from her consulting room window. After the explosion they would stand for a few moments, holding their shape, then their edges would lose solidity and all of a sudden the edifices would waver, then dissolve into a shower of bricks and mortar. Now XXX’s face lost it’s fixed expression of outrage; the body seemed to fold in on itself. XX was diminished.

I could just see that scene play out, it was tense.

Normal People by Sally Rooney

  The beginning of the story unfolds in Carricklea, Sligo in western Ireland. Our main characters are Connell and Marianne and they are you...