Where to Start With Tana French
If you’ve yet to discover Tana French’s fantastic mystery novels, you are in for a real reading treat. Ranging from procedurals that can be on the thriller end of the genre all the way to character-driven suspense crime novels, all of French’s books feature excellent writing and take a dive into human behavior. Depending on your reading mood and crime tastes, you can choose from two standalone suspense novels and a procedural series, the Dublin Murder Squad: Following a group of detectives in Dublin, Ireland solving tough murder cases. But since the series (currently with 6 books) actually changes the focal character with every book–think of it like a daisy chain where a side character later becomes the lead–they can easily be read as standalones. This gives you the option, if you want, to start wherever! With that in mind, the titles below are listed in order of their Goodreads ratings.
This story picks up six months after the end of In The Woods, but I honestly read this one before I read that one, so you make the call for your own order. Anyhoo, in The Likeness, detective Cassie Maddox has transferred out of Dublin Murder Squad, but of course she’s going to be drawn back by a case. Not only is there a murdered woman who looks exactly like Maddox, but the victim also has an ID with a name that Maddox previously used on undercover assignments as a police officer. So what exactly is happening...
This time around, we follow detective Frank Mackey in the Dublin Murder Squad and get a past mystery tied directly to his life. When he was nineteen, he and his girlfriend, Rosie, were set to run away from Dublin’s Faithful Place for a new start in London. Except Rosie never showed. Frank always assumed she changed her mind about him. Except now, twenty years later, he learns from his sister that they’ve found Rosie’s suitcase and their unused tickets to London. The squad wants him out of the way for solving this because he’s too close, and the town wants nothing to do with any of them because they don’t trust cops...but nothing is going to stop Frank from discovering the truth about what happened to Rosie.
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The Secret Place
While this one’s rating is slightly below Broken Harbor, I am placing it here because it’s connected with the next book, which switches the focal point of the partners and how one came to the squad. Stephen Moran has been wanting to join the Dublin Murder Squad and finally has his chance thanks to a year-old unsolved murder case involving a dead boy at a girl’s boarding school. He’ll be partnered with Detective Antoinette Conway, but he’ll be under close watch of detective Frank Mackey, the father of a teenage girl with evidence...
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This time you get Detective Antoinette Conway from the Murder Squad as your lead. She’s tough as nails but getting absolutely no respect from her male coworkers. Along with her partner, Stephen Moran, she really needs a case to prove herself, and she gets it in the form of a woman who was murdered in her home. This takes you deep into the investigation as Conway starts to doubt herself and the other detectives try to force her to just arrest the boyfriend already.
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In partially abandoned luxury Ireland developments, a father and his two young children are murdered, and his wife, who barely survived, is in intensive care. Being a huge case, it is given to the star of the Murder Squad, Mick “Scorcher" Kennedy. He’s ready for a slam-dunk case, but there are too many things that don’t add up, and he’s suddenly back in his childhood neighborhood having to relive memories he may not be ready to deal with.
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In the Woods
I love that the lowest-rated (which is still a high rating!) of all of French’s Murder Squad novels is the first because it has polarized people as to whether they like or hate the ending. No spoilers here, it just amuses me to wait and see which camp a reader will fall into. I personally read this one third and very much enjoyed it. You get a double mystery of sorts when two detectives in the Dublin Murder Squad, Rob Ryan and Cassie Maddox, are partnered in solving the murder of a 12-year-old girl in the woods. The same woods that Rob Ryan was found in as a boy, covered in blood, when his two friends went missing...but no one knows that...
The Witch Elm
nd now we’ve reached French’s first published standalone novel, which is a brilliant slow-burn suspense novel that unravels a character and unpacks the notion of “the nice guy.” Toby is super pleased with his life until a robbery leaves him injured and forces him to move to his uncle’s estate, where he grew up. But his recovery will have the added stress of a skeleton being found on the property and a subsequent police investigation… This one is great for book clubs, as it has the mystery to keep you turning the pages, and but French explores many ideas that make for great discussions.
This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around July 30, 2019. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.
Finally is French’s second standalone novel, which was just published this fall. Like The Witch Elm, we get a slow-burn character-driven novel with a mystery, but this time it’s an American who has quit being a police officer and moved to a remote village in Ireland. He’s divorced and trying to have a relationship with his grown daughter, who is in the States, while he's working to fix up the rundown house he purchased. But soon, a child is asking for his help in finding a missing sibling, and he discovers he won’t be welcome if he starts to ask questions...
What to Read Next
Jamie Canavés is a Book Riot contributing editor and Tailored Book Recommendations coordinator. She writes the Unusual Suspects mystery newsletter, never says no to chocolate or ‘80s nostalgia, and can hold a conversation using only gifs. Tweets: @Oh_Dinky.