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In praise of Tana French, by Claire Coughlan

Celebrating Irish women writers: ‘You never get the tired trope of the same weary detective with an ex-wife and a drink problem, common to many crime series. What you do get is crackling dialogue, and whip-smart observations on the Irish zeitgeist’

Tana French: “The Secret Place, her latest, and arguably her best yet, is about a murder in an exclusive girls’ boarding school. Clear a day or two of pure uninterrupted reading time and enjoy.” Photograph: Frank Miller

I read my first Tana French novel, In the Woods, in one sitting. That was back in 2007 and since then French has written four more equally addictive mysteries and become a New York Times bestseller for her perfectly executed Dublin Murder Squad series. The former theatre actress certainly knows how to inhabit a character, and all five books are told from the first person, with different narrators in each novel, ensuring that you never get the tired trope of the same weary detective with an ex-wife and a drink problem, common to many crime series. What you do get is crackling dialogue, and whip-smart observations on the Irish zeitgeist. Broken Harbour, French’s fourth novel, was about the murder of almost an entire family, stuck in one of Ireland’s ghost estates on the outskirts of Dublin, in the promised land of a big development that had never come to fruition once the recession hit. The Secret Place, her latest, and arguably her best yet, is about a murder in an exclusive girls’ boarding school. Clear a day or two of pure uninterrupted reading time and enjoy.

“A woman working Murder shouldn’t rate scandal, shouldn’t even rate a mention. But a lot of the boys are old-school; a lot of the young ones too. Equality is paper-deep, peel it away with a fingernail.”
From The Secret Place (Hachette Books Ireland, 2014)

Other favourites: Maggie O’Farrell, Louise O’Neill

Claire Coughlan is a writer, journalist and creative writing teacher