Reading Tana French makes me want to go to Ireland. Her Ireland feels like a much more complex and textured place than I’ve seen represented in more romantic representations.
However, after reading The Searcher, it strikes me as not the wisest choice for an American to up and move to the Irish countryside.
That’s precisely what Cal Hooper has done. Cal is a retired Chicago police detective, and he takes his nest egg to Ireland to buy a run-down old home in a small, quiet farming community filled with older bachelors who are tied to the land and can’t escape to Galway like the younger generations are doing.
Cal meets a local kid named Trey Reddy. Trey is from a very poor family on the outskirts of town with a terrible reputation for being lazy, slow, and criminal. Once they’ve established a report, Trey asks Cal to help find Brendan – Trey’s missing brother. He’s been missing for six months, and everyone else assumes he’s run off to the city, but Trey thinks otherwise. They were close, and Brendan would never have left without getting back in touch.
Unable to resist a good mystery, Cal dives head first into the case, and begins to ruffle some of the local feathers with his questions. He talks to Brendan’s friends, his ex-girlfriend, and his sworn enemy, all of whom believe he is alive and well…somewhere else.
Cal is warned off his mission by the locals, first subtly and then with more force. And Trey doesn’t escape the wrath of whoever wants Brendan’s disappearance to remain a secret.
This book differs from Tana French’s others in a few ways: 1) it includes an outsider – not all the main characters are Irish; 2) it isn’t part of the Dublin Murder series which takes place in the capital city; 3) it feels a bit more meandering than the others. It does include crime, police work, and dealing with past demons. But, while some of her other books feel like an exploration of the nature of trauma – I’m thinking specifically of The Witch Elm and In The Woods – this feels like an exploration of the nature of community. With the Reddy family’s circumstances, it also feels like an exploration of the more toxic parts of living in a tiny, quaint village. On the one hand, everyone knows everyone and people are willing to help their neighbors. On the other hand, everyone knows everyone and the sins of the fathers are absolutely ascribed to the children and anyone else connected by blood.
Would Brendan Reddy’s case be given more attention if he were from a respectable family? Would people care about Trey’s well-being or the fact that a 13 year old girl is wandering around the countryside instead of attending school? Would people offer to help Sheila Reddy after her husband leaves her with six children?
I believe the answer is yes, and this story shows that sometimes it takes an outsider with very little knowledge of the subtle hierarchy in the little village to give this family a chance, whatever that may look like.