Celtic mystery

Tana French The Secret Place (2014) 518 p
This is the latest edition to the Dublin Murder Squad series.
French is a master of complex Irish/Celtic whodunits. This is atmospheric literary fiction, with great use of language and dialogue, with deep insight into complex twisted characters. Numerous characters (18) with 8 perspectives and two timelines make for an intricate, elaborate plot. I found there were too many teen voices, but perhaps it was just the lying, destructive behavior, babble, which also seemed unfathomable to the detectives. French’s descriptive writing has a keen sense of drama which provides an indepth analysis of teen culture while creating tension as they have less than a day to find the killer.
Teen Holly Mackey (2010 Faithful Place, daughter of a favourite detective Frank Mackey, who still has the best lines) brings a note detective Stephen Moran claiming to know who killed a boy from the neighboring school St Colm’s. He has been waiting to get onto the squad even it it means working the cold case with detective Antoinette Conway, who is angry defensive and bitter mostly, justifiably, at the old boys police network. Two rival cliques in the posh St Kilda’s school portray the bitter, secretive and ruthlessness of spoiled teens. I found it very disturbing in many ways.
Themes of bullying, loyalty, emotional maturity, trust, mysticism, old traditions and current situations.
Insp. Moran’s voice alternates with the flashbacks of several girls, including Holly-
of rapidly changing teenage angst and psyche, Americanized language of adolescents.
Holly is the odd one out in this school as all the rest are from wealthy families. I can see her becoming an important character in the continuing series (and will be disappointed if this doesn’t happen!)
As usual French’s keen sense of detail creates an intense suspenseful thriller. I love her proper use of language, descriptive sentence structure. This is also a great audio book read by Lara Hutchinson and Stephen Hogan with lovely lilting Irish accents.
Read On
If you like Donna Tartt, Muriel Spark, Declan Hughes, Brian McGilloway, Arlene Hunt.
Do not read of you haven’t read her previous books. Or if you are tired of teenage drama (in any culture).
Conway wasn’t going to want me. She was getting me anyway.

4 stars

Fresh Eire

Some short notes on recent favourite Irish mystery authors:

Leonie Swann Three Bags Full
I am still laughing, 12 months later. Detective Sheep! The ‘wrong kind of grass’ ;-0 the busybody (miss maple-cleverest of the sheep, perhaps in the whole world; Othello a black Hebridean 4 horned ram with a mysterious past; Gabriel – a very odd sheep; cloud – the wooliest sheep) and intriguing story. “Genuinely odd” “best (or only?) sheep detective novel you will read all year.” In an Irish village of Glennkill, shepherd George was murdered with a spade; great puns! Light.
German translated into Irish (Anthea Bell).

Ian Sansom The Book stops here (2008)
Like the case of the Missing Books and Mr Dixon Disappears, Israel Armstrong continues the Mobile Library mysteries with hilarity. It is so classically Irish, with English subtitles 😉 Hard to believe he has only lived in Tumdrum 6 months (and three books) selfsame rainy days which slowly and silently became weeks and then months, and which seemed gradually to be slowing, and slowing and slowing….stuck there not just for months, but years, decades almost! Oh the young. But he is well read, and continually quotes authors, plays, poets, while no one around him understands anything. Already an anachronism.
But also very sad as he has to learn that ‘you have a life where you’re living. That he wasn’t English, hardly european, certainly not irish, ….

Tana French In the Wood, the Likeness
The Irish Troubles, from within the police force. Huge creep factor, we are so uncivilised. The second book, redeemed some of the first – you do care about these people, but learning how much is out of our control isn’t pleasant. Games people play, which destroy other lives. Carrie Maddox, detective is contacted because a look alike is found dead, so the previous story ( novel) continues (do read in order). Edgar award for first novel, Clarian Best Fiction. Other awards.

John Connolly The Reapers
This man still scares me to death. Read only with the lights on – start in order of publication. His command of the language still amazes and delights me – how this Irishman got under the New England skin ….

Sebastian Barry 2008 The Secret Scripture
Intriguing with the different views of life, as fact and as remembered. Stranglehold that the Catholic church had on individual lives…. Not an easy read. A Long Long Way. 2005: Dublin 1955 plays, poems. 1914, Great War/Battle for Irish Independence – flawless use of language, beautiful, evocative moments, singing, birth, words. But overwhelming consequences of war. Utterly depressing, totally Irish. ‘He was born in the dying days” (1896). Read at your peril.