When this book came out last year, I read a review of it and knew immediately that I wanted to read The Trespasser. The problem was that it was the sixth in a series.
Now, we know that I am constitutionally unable to start a series in the middle or at the end, so I set about to read the preceding five books, in their order of publication. In May, I finished book number five, The Secret Place, in which detectives Antoinette Conway and Stephen Moran are featured. Finally, I was ready for the book that I had wanted to read in the first place.
Let me just state up front that The Trespasser was worth the wait. In fact, in my opinion, it is the best of the lot.
When we join the Dublin Murder Squad this time, Conway has been there for perhaps a couple of years, but Moran is still a newbie. He was brought on board on Conway's recommendation after they worked the St. Kilda's School case together. They are now partners and it is basically them against the world. Or at least them against the rest of the Murder Squad.
Conway is the only woman on the squad and she is subject to constant misogynistic harassment of the Good Old Boy type, something that most women who have worked with men can probably identify with to a greater or lesser degree. Conway is tough, but at the time she and Moran are assigned to their latest case, she's just about ready to chuck it all in and go work for a security firm.
The partners, up until now, have mostly been assigned to domestic cases, generally the most easy to solve. Now, a young woman has been found dead in her home with a severely bruised face and her head cracked against the stone of her hearth.
Aislinn Murray lived alone. She was a beautiful young woman and, at the time of her death, had apparently been preparing a romantic Saturday night dinner for some lucky man. Did the romance turn sour and the man start punching Murray causing her to fall and hit her head and ultimately die? It'll be up to Conway and Moran to find out. They are assigned the case.
Suspicion initially falls on the boyfriend who was going for that romantic dinner, but he swears he never got into the house. Aislinn never answered the door when he rang and he finally decided he had been dumped and went away. He says he had never been in the house at all and there are no fingerprints or other evidence to give the lie to that story.
Nevertheless, one of the detectives assigned to the investigation, Breslin, the old pro who Conway and Moran see as their squad leader's eyes and ears, the one who is to see that they don't go off track, insists that the boyfriend did it and keeps trying to push them in that direction, even though there is the flimsiest of circumstantial evidence.
Meanwhile, the victim's best friend hints at another man, a married man, that Aislinn was involved with, but insists that she doesn't know the details.
And there is another thing that is niggling at Conway's mind. She knows that the victim's face is familiar. She has seen her before. But her record is clean. There is no clue to where and under what circumstances she had met her, and she just can't remember. Until she does.
There are red herrings aplenty in this plot and, while running them to ground, Conway must also deal with the daily petty hassles of the men (or is it really just one man?) who want her off "their" elite squad. It was enough to make me want to punch somebody just reading about it!
I found this book to be so well-crafted that I really cannot find one negative thing to say about it. The characters, both main and secondary, are memorable. They are complex, stubborn, sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, and appealing. Even Antoinette, who is often irritable and unlikable, is appealing. The pace of the story is sometimes slow, sometimes fast, but that seems intentional, meant to mimic the actual pace of an investigation. Everything, every word, in this book seems intentional and well thought out.
And now, what do I do? I'm left with a sense of melancholy that there are no more Dublin Murder Squad mysteries to read. Tana French needs to get busy with the word processor and give us another. Soon!
My rating: 5 of 5 stars