I have been reading, among other things, a series by Tana French set in Ireland that are, on the surface police procedural who dunnits and in depth, fabulous stories with strong characters who are fallible and feel real. I have not read the fourth book yet, it will be here later this week, but I can say the first three are worthwhile. (update, the 4th book is likely the best, read them all!)
The first, In The Woods is told from the point of view of Rob Ryan, a young detective in the Dublin Murder Squad (which does not exist) and jumps back and forth between his past and the present case he is working on with his partner, Cassie Maddox. I loved Rob, he was so screwed up and still trying, yet-with a skill that I swear is either only Irish or the Irish are the only ones to cop to it-he manages to bungle up his best efforts with an even more enthusiastic streak of sheer self-sabotage. Frank McCourt was the first writer I ever read who had a story with loads of heart and hope and who managed to stick his foot in it coming and going, usually by getting drunk even when it was against his better judgement.
There is no satisfaction in the ending, I've not read a book that left things so human before. No miracles, no revelations, no new leaves. Just another day to move past. That being said, it's still one of the best books I have ever read.
The second book, The Likeness, took me well over a week to get through and that's saying something. It is set at the last bit of In The Woods and overlaps the time frame somewhat before moving ahead. The story is about Cassie Maddox, who resumes her previous role as an undercover detective to solve the murder of a young woman who looks exactly like her. It has none of the same pacing as In The Woods, the mind of Cassie is nothing like seeing things from Rob's perspective and as she's undercover and on her own, it's set a good bit inside her head as she puzzles through things. It's worth the read for the sake of the series, but can be skipped as it does little more than wind up the first book and introduce you to her boss, Frank Mackey.
Faithful Place centers around Frank Mackey and has no mention of Rob or Cassie. Frank left home 22 years before after being dumped by his girlfriend, Rose, the same night they planned to run away together to start a new life. Now the head of an undercover unit and a 41 year old divorced father, he gets a call from his sister saying to come home. They've found a suitcase that belonged to Rosie. Maybe she never left him or Faithful Place.
Frank is a different type of screwed up than Rob and the story is mostly in his head as well, but he embraces his faults and uses them to help solve puzzles. He's manipulative and tough, but underneath everything he's ever done for the past 2 decades hinges on believing the girl he loved more than life had walked away from him. The reconciliation of her death and the subsequent unraveling of events weave together to create a really good story, I zipped through it in 2 days.
Her latest, Broken Harbor focuses on Mick 'Scorcher' Kennedy, the Murder Squad detective with the highest solve rate and the man in charge of Rose's murder investigation in the previous book. It's set up to go into his past as well, to when he was a child and something happened to him and his sister in Broken Harbor-where he's just been sent to solve a triple murder of a father and 2 children. I can hardly wait to sink into it.
She's all about pasts shaping present, she gives each character a juicy one. Rob is the sole survivor from a childhood trio of friends. He was found when he was just a kid soaked in blood and holding on to a tree so tightly his nails had to be pried out of the bark. His 2 best friends were never seen again. The woods where it happened are the same woods a young girl has been found murdered in, some 20 years later and he pulls the case.
I love the way each story leads to the next and I like how there are questions and loose ends in each story and characters I want to know more about put on display for a chapter or two and then whisked away to do their jobs elsewhere. I want badly to get back to Rob and see where he is in 5 years from the end of his story, to see if 'Legion' ever makes another showing, to see if Stephen from Faithful Place gets his own tale. I want so badly for some of the people to stop drinking and wallowing and live up to their potential, to get over their pasts and have a future. It's funny how much time I spend thinking about them and thinking, 'If only'.