“Taught, chiseled and propulsive.”
“Crime fiction fans won’t want to miss this one.”
— Publishers Weekly
“A slow-burn stunner that will keep readers turning the pages late into the night.”
— Library Journal
Old habits die hard. Especially if you’re a middle-aged ex-cop from Chicago who’s specialized in missing persons and a missing person’s case comes knocking at your door.
In Tana French’s gripping new novel, The Searcher (Viking), all Cal Hooper wants is peace and quiet. He’s purchased a ramshackle cottage in Arknakelty, a village outside of Dublin, and has left his emotional baggage back home in the U.S. His ex-wife wants nothing to do with him, and he suspects that his grown daughter doesn’t either. He certainly desires to forget about an arrest that went awry, which challenged his dedication to urban policing.
Cal seems to be settling in nicely, working on his house and hanging out with the colorful locals at the village pub — until trouble seeks him out. Thirteen-year-old Trey Reddy, from the trailer-trash Reddys, enters his life. Despite Cal’s best efforts to keep his past a secret, everyone in town knows he was a cop, and Trey wants him to locate a missing older sibling named Brendan. Trey is convinced that Brendan has been kidnapped, and through persistence and mischievousness, Trey persuades Cal to find out what happened.
Solving the mystery is like a siren song to Cal; being a cop is so ingrained in him that he’s unable to resist. He’s restless in his new environs and can’t shake the pull of finding Brendan. Plus, for the first time, he’s selecting his own assignment rather than having it assigned to him by his superiors.
CAL’S SEARCH FOR REDEMPTION
As Cal’s friendship with Trey develops, he teaches Trey about carpentry, how to handle a shotgun and the difference between manners and morals. He’s careful that their friendship is not viewed as the subject of local gossip, and the reader wonders whether it serves as a substitute for Cal’s strained relationship with his daughter, Alyssa. He’s afraid that by prioritizing his work as a cop over being a good husband and father, he’s let his daughter and ex-wife down. Through the search for Brendan, Cal seeks redemption for that sin and to reclaim his moral code.
Once Cal starts his investigation there’s no turning back, even when he unearths a web of lies that spreads from Dublin to the village pub, Seán Óg’s. He’s never dissuaded by dead ends, threats or journeys into the wilds of the West of Ireland. He’s on a mission.
The Searcher is not an action-packed, shoot-’em-up crime story. The novel’s pace is like the slow burn of the Irish moonshine brewed on a homemade still. The clues, along with Cal’s strengths and weaknesses, are sprinkled like the morsels he leaves for the rooks living in the tree in his yard. Often, he’s blind to the clues, and at other times, he misinterprets them. For a cop, sometimes he’s just plain dumb — or is he a rube for a well-concocted conspiracy of secrets? And will his discovery of the dark underbelly of Arknakelty shake the entire community and send him packing back to Chicago?
FRENCH’S ENCHANTING IRISH LANDSCAPES
French’s lyrical imagery of the wild bogs, the relentless rain, the bone-chilling cold and the rolling verdant pastures capture the mood and tone of the mystery. Even the menacing rooks serve as a Greek chorus to Cal’s inner monologue. Man’s primordial relationship to nature, his taking only what is necessary to survive and nature’s domination over man impact every action and thought running through Cal’s head. He’s okay with that; it’s what he intended when he quit Chicago. He wanted to regain his humanity, and thanks to the fixer-upper, Trey Reddy and his new companions, he finds his footing again.
French has likened The Searcher to the old Westerns, “where people try to do right in situations where that isn’t always an option.” As the title suggests, Cal is a lonesome cowboy on the trail of something other than the missing teen. So are the other characters, both the good and the bad. Part of the fun of The Searcher is decoding what or who that is. Certainly, for Cal Hooper, he learns that the difference between right and wrong is complex, and watching Cal and Trey navigate the mossy bogs in between makes a great read.