The Trespasser by Tana French

Reviewed by Richard Goldman
Hardcover October 2016

The Trespasser is the latest in what Tana French calls her Dublin Murder Squad series but it's the sixth in a series defined not by a particular character but by a chain of characters who have handed off each new book to a lesser character from the previous book.

The Trespasser features detective Antoinette Conway, who did appear in the previous The Secret Place where she partnered with Steve Moran who carried the protagonist point of view. In The Trespasser these roles are reversed and Antoinette is very much in command of the narrative while Steve takes a distinctly supporting role. Antoinette is the only woman on the Murder Squad and she's mixed race to boot. Needless to say she's had a rough time of it and it's given her a distinct chip on her shoulder and an aggressive and defensive attitude toward her colleagues. In fact Steve is about the only person she can be partnered with and their relationship has its ups and downs.

The case that they are both thrown into is the death of a young woman, Aislinn Murray, found with her head caved in in her own home. She was expecting a man over for dinner and that man claims she never answered her door or his texts when he arrived for dinner--presumably because she was already dead. Even before the investigation can begin Antoinette's boss has saddled her with another detective, Breslin, to "help her out with the interviews" and his help seems to quite quickly turn to pressuring Antoinette and Steve to arrest the boyfriend.

Theories are soon flying about possible corruption, the victim's having a secret boyfriend, perhaps a criminal and finally dark doings concerning the disappearance of Aislinn's father when she was a child.

All of these leads are pursued at a furious pace while Antoinette and Steve try to work out whether Breslin or his regular partner are somehow involved either with the victim or the murder. All the while Antoinette's paranoia about the Murder Squad and their desire to drive her out makes her doubt everyone's motives, even Steve's, as well as her own judgment.

Perhaps what I love most about Tana French's books--and The Trespasser is an excellent example--is the the subtle combination of solid puzzle mystery, explanation of police work and the exploration of character and motive both on the part of the victims and criminals but equally on the part of the detectives. During the course of this book we'll find out quite a lot about Aislinn Murray and what made her tick. We'll also find out how she died and why and we'll find out who did it. But even more we'll find out about Antoinette Conway and what drives her to act as she does.

A solid bit of mystery writing that I'd be happy to stand up against any straight novel.

Tana French began her mystery career with In the Woods which won a well-deserved Edgar in 2007 for Best First Novel. It was followed by four further novels before the current book. I'd recommend reading them all.