Tana French’s first book, In the Woods, won the 2007 Edgar Award for Best First Novel. It is subtle and beautifully written, the kind of mystery that appeals to readers of literary fiction, but also one that keeps you reading eagerly, searching to unravel the mystery and to understand the narrator, Dublin Detective Rob Ryan. In the long tradition of unrealiable narrators (narrators who are flawed and whose understanding of the events they relate may be skewed, warped, self-serving, or outright false), Ryan tells the compelling tale of the murder he and his partner Cassie Maddox are investigating, intricately intertwined with the haunting story of murders he was involved in as a child. The conclusion of this outstanding mystery answers some questions, but leaves others hanging. In French’s mysteries, people are complex, operating from many levels of experience and understanding. A simple, complete answer may not be possible in this world.
French’s second mystery, The Likeness, features Cassie Maddox six months after the events of In the Woods. Cassie, too, brings her complex psyche to the murder she is brought in to help investigate. Her former boss asks her to go undercover, and she knows full well the dangers of the work: taking on another persona for a long period puts huge pressure on a detective, and in this instance, Cassie is taking on the identity of a murdered woman who was her physical double and who was using the identity Cassie herself developed when she worked undercover. Cassie is also struggling with unresolved issues from the events of In the Woods, so she is particularly vulnerable to the pressures and questions raised by this case. French explores questions of identity and loyalty-where one’s sense of self resides and how and when it is merged into identification with another person. Fascinating stuff. I know you’ll enjoy these unusual and beautifully written mysteries.