Thursday, February 24, 2011

Tana French

Every once in awhile I have to pop in to squeal loudly about a new author I've discovered.  Actually, Tana French isn't that new - I was just (once again) slow to pick up her first book.

Now, I can say I am officially hooked on Tana French.

This is one woman who has moved quickly onto my "auto-buy" list and I can only hope she will continue writing for years and years.  And years.

And a few more years.

The first book she wrote was IN THE WOODS.  Published in 2007.  It won the 2008 Edgar Award for Best First Novel, 2008 Barry Award for Best First Novel, 2008 Macavity Award for Best First Novel AND the 2008 Anthony Award for Best First Novel.  Pretty impressive stuff, huh?!  WHY did I wait so long to pick this up.  Oh well.  I did and I loved it and I hope you'll give it a try.

From the back cover: "The debut novel of an astonishing new voice in psychological suspense.  In Tana French's powerful debut thriller, three children leave their small Dublin neighborhood to play in the surrounding woods.  Hours later, their mothers' calls go unanswered.  When the police arrive, they find only one of the children, gripping a tree trunk in terror, wearing blood-filled sneakers, and unable to recall a single detail of the previous hours.

Twenty years later, Detective Rob Ryan - the found boy, who has kept his past a secret - and his partner Cassie Maddox investigate the murder of a twelve-year-old girl in the same woods.  Now, with only snippets of long-buried memories to guide him, Ryan has the chance to uncover both the mystery of the case before him, and that of his own shadowy past."

I didn't pick this up in the beginning because it sounded darker than what I normally read.  But once I did start reading,  I was fully entranced from paragraph one and stayed that way through the end of the story.  Warning:  If you like all the lose ends tidied up when you reach "The End," wellllll . . .  let's just say that's not exactly the case with IN THE WOODS.  But the writing is so lush and beautiful, the protagonists so likable and believable, the story told with such perfect restraint, I forgive this writer anything. 

Here's a little taste.  This is from the very first paragraph of the prologue:  "Picture a summer stolen whole from some coming-of-age film set in small-town 1950s.  This is none of Ireland's subtle seasons mixed for a connoisseur's palate, watercolor nuances within a pinch-sized range of cloud and soft rain; this is summer full-throated and extravagant in a hot pure silkscreen blue."

Before I was half-way through IN THE WOODS, I ordered the second book, published in 2008.  THE LIKENESS.

If you enjoyed meeting Detective Cassie Maddox in IN THE WOODS, you'll probably want to read more about her.   

From Tana French's webpage - here's what people had to say about THE LIKENESS:

‘French has written another winner… The Likeness has everything: memorable characters, crisp dialogue, shrewd psychological insight, mounting tension, a palpable sense of place, and wonderfully evocative, painterly prose.’ Thomas Gaughan, Booklist (starred review)

'Police procedures, psychological thrills and gothic romance beautifully woven into one stunning story.' Kirkus

'Stunning...French cleverly subverts the conventions of the locked room mystery, ratcheting up the tension at every turn with her multidimensional characters. Readers looking for a new name in psychological suspense need look no further than this powerful new Irish voice.' Publishers Weekly (starred review)

And here's a wee taste:  "The house is always empty.  The bedrooms are bare and bright, only my footsteps echoing off the floorboards, circling up through the sun and the dust motes to the high ceilings.  Smell of wild hyacinths, drifting through the wide-open windows, and of beeswax polish.  Chips of white paint flaking off the window sashes and a tendril of ivy swaying in over the sill.  Wood doves, lazy somewhere outside.

In the sitting room the piano is open, wood glowing chestnut and almost too bright to look at in the bars of sun, the breeze stirring the yellowed sheet music like a finger.  The table is laid ready for us, five settings - the bone-china plates and the long-stemmed wineglasses, fresh-cut honeysuckle trailing from a crystal bowl - but the silverware has gone dim with tarnish and the heavy damask napkins are frilled with dust.  Daniel's cigarette case lies by his place at the head of the table, open and empty except for a burnt-down match."

The third, FAITHFUL PLACE, came out last year and is a 2011Edgar Award Finalist in the Best Mystery Category.  

I have not read this one yet.  But.  I've ordered it through one of our little indie bookstores - Black Bear Books.  It should be arriving in the next day or two.  oh boy oh boy oh boy.  Following tradition, one of the characters from THE LIKENESS, Frank Mackey, is featured in this one. 
From Tana French's webpage again - people are saying: "French's emotionally searing third novel of the Dublin murder squad (after The Likeness) shows the Irish author getting better with each book." Publishers Weekly (starred) 
"[French] revisits, evocatively and lyrically, themes she's used before: love, loss, memory, murder, and life in modern Ireland. French's writing remains brilliant, and her dialogue is sharp, often lacerating, and sometimes mordantly funny. Faithful Place is her best book yet." Booklist (starred)
"The charming narrative will leave readers begging for a sequel." Kirkus Reviews 

Since I haven't received my copy of this yet, I can't give you that little taste for this one.  dang.  Maybe in a day or two . . . 

As much as I love them, I can certainly understand these books not being everyone's cup of tea.  

Have you read them?

What do you think??


Vicki Lane said...

Looking forward to reading IN THE WOODS! She's an amazing writer!

lella said...

I've read all three of Tana French's books and love them. Always sad when I've finished, like loosing friends.

But that's one of Ms. French's strengths; creating characters you connect deeply to.

I'm a huge fan.