Some spoilers follow, but not the whodunit or exactly why.
I think Tana French must be chalked up as one of those writers whose writing I can admire, but whose storytelling doesn’t suit my reading tastes.
Until recently, I’d heard great things about Tana French’s books, but never got around to reading her. I did manage to buy a couple of her books at the UBS, but they sat in the TBR pile for ages; one of them still sits there. B&N had a sale and I had a coupon, so I bought a copy of French’s new release, Broken Harbor, for a little less than half price, and began there. (Which may have been a mistake? Perhaps this is an author best read in order.)
I found the writing to be extremely good, and narrator’s voice to be gripping. Kennedy is a hard-nosed cop, a cliche in some ways. He’s got a pretty jaded worldview when it comes to being a Murder Detective, but it seems to have worked for him in the past because he’s got a good solve rate. The set up of the central mystery here is pretty universal following the financial crash of 2008: it could be set in Ireland or Spain or Florida or Southern California. A family is found dead in a nearly empty, failed development that crashed with the real estate market. The whodunit…I figured out early on, but still enjoyed the steps of the procedural.
What I struggled with is the treatment of mental illness through out the novel. It is an illness. It needs to be treated, not shoved under a rug or “fixed” by well-intentioned family who don’t know what they are doing. On one hand, that’s what creates the internal and external plots of the book, and without it there is no book. But as a reader, that being the ultimate causation for the plot is depressing.
French’s The Likeness is another police procedural, murder mystery. Also tightly written with an engrossing first person narrator. The whodunit is narrowed to a group in the beginning, so the mystery is more about unpuzzling the victim and the group than anything else. The difference here is that the narrator is incredibly unreliable and unstable (IMO) to the point that the wrap up of the murder is a cheat. For all the narrator’s discussion about the value of truth, she spent a fair amount of time lying to everyone, including herself, and twisted the truth out of recognition. As a reader, I don’t trust that narrator and don’t find her sympathetic or empathetic. I’m not sure I’d be interested in reading more procedurals with her as lead, and feel sort of sorry for her fiance in the ostensible HFN.