I’ve read several of the Dublin Murder Squad books, and I really like most of them so I feel confident saying this is probably just a misstep from Tana French, at least for me, because I really had a hard time getting through this one.
This one follows Detective Antoinette Conway, who is partnered with Stephen Moran (who was the main character of the last DMS book I read, The Secret Place). Conway transferred over from Missing Persons, and Murder Squad was always her goal but now that she is there it’s… not so great. She is being harrassed by the other officers who are making it good and clear they don’t want her around. Moran seems to be the only person who thinks she has any place there at all.
The pair are stuck on the night shift, resolving bar fights and paint-by-number domestics and Conway is sick of it. As they are on their way out the door one morning the Gaffer ( Chief) tosses them what appears to be another basic domestic with the added insult of telling them to take the department All-Star on as a third for this one.
As the team gets to work, Conway and Moran start to think things may not be as they seem, but Breslin, the All Star, is pushing them to wrap it up ASAP with the obvious suspect as their man. It isn’t clear if he’s just bored with the case and worried about his solve numbers or if there is a bigger reason. Conway can’t help but wonder if her paranoia that is growing from the constant ridicule isn’t coloring her view of the situation, but it’s hard to know what’s happening.
OK, I really, really dislike Conway and that was my biggest problem with this book. I don’t need to love a protagonist, but good god, she is so aggravatingly, irritatingly dislikable I really didn’t blame the other officers for not wanting her around. Seriously, between the enormous chip on her shoulder and ridiculous cross she wants to drag around everywhere I’m surprised she could stand up straight. I almost gave up on the book because I get sick of listening to her complain, which is what she is doing most of the time. The only other thing she does is refuse to ask for help; but then complains even more about how she’s all alone in everything (even though there are several times when this is proven 100% untrue, which is even more irritating). Because her childhood. Or something. Oh, she also really likes making snap judgements and rendering other people’s life choices invalid if they don’t match hers; which is fun. It was a bummer, because I didn’t remember disliking her at all in The Secret Place, she was overly serious, but not obnoxious and boring in her martyrdom. Maybe that’s because we saw her through the filter of Moran, rather than living in her head. Because the person who was narrating this book? Has no business being a detective.
I also had a hard time because a lot of the book deals with police politics, hazing, the thin blue line, solve rates vs. thorough investigating… basically all the things that make my blood boil about policing and police. It isn’t that the mystery is bad, it’s that I am very sensitive to this right now and watching it in action as cops use their power to exploit people who piss them off (both in relation to the case, but also in passing in regard to Conway’s general life experience) rankles me no end. It was enough to distract me from an otherwise really good mystery.
I’m not giving up on the series, I’ll read another one after a bit of a break, but this has very much been my least favorite by French, which was disappointing, because part of the reason why I started it was because she’s usually so good.