Mini Reviews: Dublin Murder Squad

I had a blast reading the first two books of this series last summer. When I was done with The Likeness, I wasn’t in the mood for more mystery novels so I put off reading Faithful Place.

This past summer I caved in and read the next two books.

Even though it’s a series, so far each book has a different narrator, typically a character that has appeared in previous books, and it’s pretty much self-contained. Therefore these reviews will contain no spoilers for previous books.

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Title: Faithful Place

Author: Tana French

Series: Dublin Murder Squad #3

Genre: Adult fiction, Crime, Mystery

Rating: ¼

Goodreads

Back in 1985, Frank Mackey was nineteen, growing up poor in Dublin’s inner city, and living crammed into a small flat with his family on Faithful Place. But he had his sights set on a lot more. He and Rosie Daly were all ready to run away to London together, get married, get good jobs, break away from factory work and poverty and their old lives.

But on the winter night when they were supposed to leave, Rosie didn’t show. Frank took it for granted that she’d dumped him-probably because of his alcoholic father, nutcase mother, and generally dysfunctional family. He never went home again.

Neither did Rosie. Everyone thought she had gone to England on her own and was over there living a shiny new life. Then, twenty-two years later, Rosie’s suitcase shows up behind a fireplace in a derelict house on Faithful Place, and Frank is going home whether he likes it or not.

Getting sucked in is a lot easier than getting out again. Frank finds himself straight back in the dark tangle of relationships he left behind. The cops working the case want him out of the way, in case loyalty to his family and community makes him a liability. Faithful Place wants him out because he’s a detective now, and the Place has never liked cops. Frank just wants to find out what happened to Rosie Daly-and he’s willing to do whatever it takes, to himself or anyone else, to get the job done.

French dazzled me with her characters as always. She managed to paint a very vivid picture of the dynamics in Frank’s family, both in the past and present. It is a very heartbreaking portrayal of an abusive family that doesn’t sugarcoat. I wasn’t expecting to love Frank after The Likeness, but French adds so much depth and life to the character that I couldn’t help rooting for him, even though he was still a realistically-flawed asshole. My only complaint is that I expected Rosie to be a bit more developed, instead of only getting to see Frank’s idealized view of her, though I do appreciate that Frank himself acknowledges this.

The plot unravels slowly but surely. Every scene adds to the characters if not the whole. I love the whole rogue investigation into a family matter, so this was just for me. Because the stakes are so rooted on family, French knows what to focus on and how to write a satisfying conclusion, if a bit predictable. I was hooked from the very start.

 

18243050Title: Broken Harbor

Author: Tana French

Series: Dublin Murder Squad #4

Genre: Adult fiction, Crime, Mystery

Rating: 

In BROKEN HARBOUR, a ghost estate outside Dublin – half-built, half-inhabited, half-abandoned – two children and their father are dead. The mother is on her way to intensive care. Scorcher Kennedy is given the case because he is the Murder squad’s star detective. At first he and his rookie partner, Richie, think this is a simple one: Pat Spain was a casualty of the recession, so he killed his children, tried to kill his wife Jenny, and finished off with himself. But there are too many inexplicable details and the evidence is pointing in two directions at once.

Scorcher’s personal life is tugging for his attention. Seeing the case on the news has sent his sister Dina off the rails again, and she’s resurrecting something that Scorcher thought he had tightly under control: what happened to their family, one summer at Broken Harbour, back when they were children. The neat compartments of his life are breaking down, and the sudden tangle of work and family is putting both at risk . . .

After adoring Faithful Place, I was all the more disappointed with this instalment. Maybe it is because I didn’t find the case that interesting. This is in part because the characters did not have much at stake in a personal sense. Scorcher was remind of his troubled past, but it never tied into the plot. I know it is a cliche, but as a casual reader of mystery I hadn’t realised how much I need it to be invested in the plot. I also think this disjointedness does not work well with French’s focus on her narrators’ arcs in each novel. The plot was so by-the-book that I got bored pretty early on. I feel bad for saying this but it was too realistic for my tastes.

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