Cover image of "Faithful Place" by Tana French, one of the Dublin Murder Squad novels

Tana French’s first novel in the six-book Dublin Murder Squad series was In the Woods, which won the Edgar, Anthony, Macavity, and Barry awards for best first novel. She followed that bestseller with The Likeness (2008). I read both books shortly after their publication. That was before I launched this blog in January 2010, so I haven’t reviewed either one. However, I do remember being captivated by both books.

This post was updated on March 29, 2023.

The publisher describes the first two Dublin Murder Squad novels

Here’s the publisher’s description on Amazon for In the Woods: “As dusk approaches a small Dublin suburb in the summer of 1984, mothers begin to call their children home. But on this warm evening, three children do not return from the dark and silent woods. 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, the found boy, Rob Ryan, is a detective on the Dublin Murder Squad and keeps his past a secret. But when a twelve-year-old girl is found murdered in the same woods, he and Detective Cassie Maddox—his partner and closest friend—find themselves investigating a case chillingly similar to the previous unsolved mystery. 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.”

And here’s the publisher’s take on The Likeness: “In the follow up to Tana French’s runaway bestseller In the Woods, it’s six months later and Cassie Maddox has transferred out of the Dublin Murder squad. But an urgent telephone call beckons Cassie to a grisly crime scene. The victim looks exactly like Cassie and carries ID identifying herself as Alexandra Madison, an alias Cassie once used as an undercover cop. Suddenly, Cassie must discover not only who killed this girl, but, more importantly, who is this girl?”

My reviews of the following four books in the series follow below.

Garda on the job in Dublin. Image: The Irish Times

Faithful Place (2010)—From Tana French, a brilliant and satisfying novel of suspense

Faithful Place tells the story of Frank Mackey, the middle son in a poor Dublin family of five children who is forced by circumstances to return to the home and family he hasn’t visited in more than two decades. Frank is a police detective. He quickly finds himself caught up in an investigation into the murder of Rosie Daly, the 19-year-old neighbor he was scheduled to elope with to England but who disappeared the night of their planned departure. The investigation, and Frank’s interaction with his parents and siblings, bring to light all over again the profound ugliness of the environment in which he grew up. Read the full review.

Broken Harbor (2012)—Mental disorders on parade in this murder mystery set in Ireland today

You probably wouldn’t like Mick “Scorcher” Kennedy, the Dublin homicide detective whose story dominates this psychological thriller. Mick is 42, a grizzled veteran of Dublin’s toughest cases, whose high “solve rate” has long been the talk of the Murder Squad. He’s a tough guy, a loner, largely friendless, who rarely talks about himself; many find him arrogant. At work, Mick is a methodical, by-the-book detective who would never stoop to the shady workarounds of many of his colleagues — and as a result is detested more than admired. Recently, though, Mick screwed up a big case and was sidelined by the bosses. Now he has a chance to redeem himself with another serious, high-profile case: the mass murder of a family in a coastal town once called Broken Harbor. Read the full review.

The Secret Place (2014)—Magical style and tedious plotting in Tana French’s latest

This novel is structured around a one-day murder investigation at an exclusive Catholic girls’ school in suburban Dublin. Scenes set in the present are viewed through the eyes of a young policeman named Stephen Moran who has joined murder investigator Antoinette Conway to interrogate the fourth-year (10th grade) girls who represent the chief suspects in the year-old murder of Christopher Harper, a popular student at a posh nearby boys’ school. Moran and Conway’s interrogation of the girls is skillfully and sensitively depicted, but it’s difficult not to think of the classic drawing-room scenes in bygone English whodunits, with the suspects accused one after another to reveal their roles in the crime. I half expected to come across Col. Mustard with the knife in the parlor. Read the full review.

The Trespasser (2016)—A difficult case for the Dublin Murder Squad

The narrator in this police procedural set in Dublin is Detective Antoinette Conway. She’s a two-year veteran of the elite Murder Squad. As the only woman on the squad, and one with a huge chip on her shoulder at that, Conway is shunned by most of the other detectives. She considers herself lucky to be partnered with Detective Steve Moran, whom she recently helped join the squad. They work together on the night shift and are used to catching domestic violence cases that pose little challenge.

So they’re not surprised to be assigned early one morning to what seems like another straightforward case of one-spouse-beats-up-the-other. But the very last thing that might be said about this case is that it’s straightforward. The assignment — a murder case rather than a beating — will consume their every waking moment for many days and shake the Murder Squad to its core. Read the full review.

About the author

Author Tana French pictured in Dublin’s Grafton St. Image: Publishers Weekly.

Born in Burlington, Vermont, in 1973, Tana French has been living in Ireland since 1990. She is theatrical actress but is best known for writing the Dublin Murder Squad novels. The series launched in 2007 with the publication of her award-winning debut, In the Woods.

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