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The Trespasser


The Trespasser

The Dublin Murder Squad books are special. You have to wait for them --- author Tana French is on a bi-yearly schedule --- and the narrator of each is different, as is the mystery. In most cases, the reader knows nothing more or less than the narrator does. It’s not always joy, but it’s always exhilarating, and that probably never has been more true than in THE TRESPASSER, French’s latest and perhaps most ambitious installment.

Antoinette Conway, the first person present narrator, is the unenviable poster woman for the admonition that one should be careful about what one wishes for. As a police officer assigned to the Missing Persons Unit, she longed to be on the Dublin Murder Squad. But when she got there, the Squad members made her feel unwelcome, with behavior ranging from sudden silence when she walked into a room to outright hostile though anonymous attacks. The cases that she worked on as a newbie were nothing like she expected, either. So she is initially disappointed when she and her partner, Stephen Moran --- the only one on the Squad who treats her with a modicum of equality --- are assigned near the end of a long shift to the newly discovered murder of Aislinn Murray.

"...a carefully and exquisitely crafted character study that will bounce around in your head long after you have read the final paragraph."

The investigation into Aislinn's death is the result of an anonymous tip. When police arrive on the scene, they find the beautiful young woman dressed to the nines and her apartment done up for what appears to be a romantic dinner for two. It looks like nothing more or less than a lover’s quarrel, and indeed, Aislinn had invited Rory Fallon, her (relatively) new boyfriend, to dinner at her apartment on the evening in question. It seems open and shut, and there is a great deal of pressure on Antoinette and Steve to wrap the thing up by charging Rory with the deed. He appears to be an unlikely candidate, given that he is a bookstore owner who seems scared of his own shadow. However, he does make it somewhat easy for Antoinette and Steve to consider him a suspect, given that he lies outright and by omission with respect to some points that might seem minor but increase in importance as the investigation soldiers on.

Chief among those pressing for an arrest is Don Breslin, who is a Murder Squad superstar and knows it. There is a bit of a tug of war that occurs throughout the book as he attempts to take control of the investigation here or divert it there. Antoinette is not sure of his motives or her own perspective; the harassment she is experiencing, not to mention his smug superiority, has caused her to all but decide to quit the Squad once the case is concluded. Still, she and Steve continue to dig and discover a link between the victim and a separate, closed case that, in turn, leads them in another direction and, ultimately, to justice of a sort. All of it will keep you guessing --- and probably guessing wrong --- until the story’s conclusion.

There is a lot of dialogue here, but it's all for a reason. Those expecting explosions and karate should look elsewhere; if you want a finely written, literate police procedural with a crime of passion thrown in for the same price, you will find THE TRESPASSER to be just the berries. As an added bonus, it is one of the most claustrophobic books I have read in recent memory. A good deal of the story takes place in the squad and interrogation rooms of the Dublin Murder Squad, so don’t expect a lot of foot or car chases down alleys. What one gets instead is a carefully and exquisitely crafted character study that will bounce around in your head long after you have read the final paragraph. And that’s a good thing.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on October 7, 2016

The Trespasser
by Tana French