Re: RARA-AVIS: Irish Crime

From: Patrick King (
Date: 24 Apr 2009

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    As for her book, I certainly wouldn't have put it on a top ten list of Irish

    crime books as long as RILKE ON BLACK or any of Ken Bruen's other myriad

    fine works is around to occupy that open spot. French's book struck me as a

    less-than-successfu l riff on Lehane's MYSTIC RIVER.


    Can't see the similarity to Lehane, here. The stories are in no way similar, Lehane's book being the murder of a young woman, French's a ritual child murder. Stylistically, French knocks Lehane out of the ring. She's one of the best wordsmiths working in genre today. Her prose is stunningly beautiful. Her character development in IN THE WOODS, too, is subtle and interesting. I thought Rob Ryan was a bit soft to be a police detective. His problems would be pretty obvious in any interview for the job. But I found the story absolutely compelling and the mystery of his childhood still irks me. I loved Cassie Maddox and her complicated relationship with Ryan. The procedures by which they unraveled this ugly crime and the atmosphere French creates around it held my interest to the last page. I really loved the book.

    Less successful was French's sequel, THE LIKENESS. French's talent for language is still very much present. It's a beautifully written book. That said, the premise, in my experience, is highly improbable. Even among actual twins, people who know them can always tell them apart after a few minutes. The idea of people who know each other as well as these people did being fooled for one hour by Cassie's masquerade was not very convincing for me. Even the crime, itself, seemed unlikely. I had to push myself to finish the book, and was not that gratified by the ending.

    Nonetheless, I think Tana French, whatever country she was born in, is one of the most talented writers I've encountered recently. She's a police procedural mystery writer who writes with the skill of Anita Shreve or Joyce Carol Oates. I'm not the least bit surprised she wins awards and expect she'll win a lot more.

    Patrick King


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