Off the Shelf: The Searcher
By Tana French
Viking Publisher ISBN 9780735224650 451 pp. 2020
Review by Terry Kenneally
Irish crime phenom Tana French has written her second standalone, after 2018s “ The Witch Elm” novel that does not involve the Dublin Murder Squad, which featured prominently in her first six books.
The setting is a small farming town in the West of Ireland. The protagonist of the story is a former Chicago police officer, Cal Hooper, who for reasons that emerge during “The Searcher,” has moved to Ireland to restart his life. The tiny fictional village of Ardnakelty is the kind of place where everyone knows everyone’s business and where Cal, who is a country boy at heart, is happy to play along with the locals.
The book moves slowly for almost the first 100 pages, as Cal acclimates himself to his new surroundings while working on his ramshackle house which needs work everywhere one looks. After long nights of hearing strange noises outside his house, Cal finally makes contact with the person who’s been stalking him, a thirteen-year-old named Trey from the wrong side of town.
Trey’s older brother, Brandon, has gone missing and now the kid wants answers. Trey’s family is a mess, with his father long gone and his mother left to raise Trey’s younger siblings.
Trey is definitely in need of some parental guidance in the form of a father figure. Eventually, Trey begins to trust Cal, who somewhat reluctantly agrees to help him find his brother.
As Cal investigates, unaided and unhindered by a badge, he finds himself embroiled in local politics and a decades-old grudge of townspeople. French is well known when it comes to writing pub scenes fraught with tension.
One-night Cal is lured out by locals and plied by Irish moonshine, tricked into enjoying the local power broker’s company and then when he is sufficiently loosened up, warned about minding his own business regarding the missing Brandon.
The Searcher is slower than some of her other books. It is unusually visual, as she displays her keen knowledge of the natural history of the West of Ireland. While not her most accessible book, it should not be missed. I rate it a TOP SHELF READ.