Serial fans should be getting down with Tana French


If you have ears and you haven’t been listening to Serial, you frankly don’t deserve them.

The beloved podcast, a pseudo-real-time deep dive into the 1999 murder of high school student Hae Min Lee and the conviction of her ex-boyfriend Adnan Syed, dropped its 10th episode today. Which means right now listeners all over the country are spending Thursday as they always do in this, our post-Serial world: debating the merits of a 15-year-old homicide investigation, and emphatically declaring or protesting Adnan’s proclaimed innocence. Somewhere, during a quick bite at the office cafeteria, coworkers are arguing over the inherent shadiness of Adnan’s accuser, Jay. Somewhere, a wife is screaming at her husband: “But what about the Nisha call!?!

As runaway hits go, Serial lives up to its hypeβ€”and I say this as someone who generally keeps the Podcasts app in her phone”s “NOPE” folder, along with Stocks and iTunes U. The program is smart and thought-provoking, and bizarrely compelling for something you experience as only a listener.

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Crime doesn’t pay, unless you’re Tana French (or a drug dealer, or a thief….OK maybe it pays)


Six years ago, Tana French had zero books. Today she has four (five if you count The Secret Place, set for publication in 2014) and they are for the most part pretty awesome. Set in Dublin and surrounding neighborhoods, each of French’s novels tracks a high-profile homicide and its investigation by a member/members of the Dublin Murder Squad, a parade of gruff yet nuanced detectives with personal backgrounds that range from the tragic to the merely unfortunate (we’re talking everything from missing/murdered childhood best friends to suicidal moms).

In Broken Harbor, which I feel compelled to admit I finished a few weeks ago at the beach (I’m running behind, okay? DON’T JUDGE ME) the case in question is a triple homicide: Patrick Spain and his two young children are found murdered in their home in a once up-and-coming (or once aspiring-to-up-and-come) beachfront-ish housing development. Wife/mom Jenny Spain barely survives the attack, and is laid up at the emergency room recovering as Detective Mick “Scorcher” Kennedy begins investigating the case. Of course, per the aforementioned personal background requisite, Scorcher has his own history with Broken Harbor (the presciently sad name of the housing development) and so must contend with his own emotional roller coaster as he becomes increasingly obsessed with the murder.

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CSI: Cambridge

Suffice it to say that in a kidnapping situation, I would be a hot mess. I mean, not a situation where I was kidnapped, in which case I’d pull a Bette Midler in Ruthless People and spend my isolation losing weight to aerobics shows and befriending my captors, but a situation where someone I know, or someone close to me, was kidnapped. I don’t deal well with uncertainty, and the idea of wondering whether my sister/daughter/dog was dead or not seems far worse than simply knowing it for a fact. Already prone to hermititude, I suspect I’d be one of those people who stops showering and starts wearing the same sweatpants every day. I’d paper over my guest bedroom with maps and crime scenes photographs, held together by that red bulletin board ribbon you only see in police shows. I’d almost assuredly start talking to myself, and I would definitively hire a private detective, who I would without question drive totally insane.

Which brings me to Kate Atkinson’s Case Histories. Dubbed “literary crime fiction,” the novel revolves around retired cop and private detective Jackson Brodie, who finds himself at the center of a run of major cases after years spent trailing cheating wives and looking for lost pets. Among the mysteries to be solved is the 30-year-old disappearance of an eight-year-old Olivia Land, whose sisters Amelia and Julia, now quirky spinster types, hire Jackson to reopen the case after they discover a long-lost stuffed animal Olivia had been holding on the night of her death. There’s also the 10-year-old murder of a young Laura Wyre, whose killer has never been found. Then we have Michelle, who killed her husband in cold blood; and Binky, who’s convinced her cats are being stolen, and Jackson himself, who can’t seem to catch a break in his personal life. All in all, there’s a great deal of uncertainty to be dealt with, and it’s safe to say I have zero interest in ever pursuing a career in police work. 

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It’s no mystery (just kidding, it is)

Well, I’ve been out of pocket for the last few days and I have to say Internet, I missed you. Not only do I feel very behind on my witty web memes and cute cat photos, but I’ve had nary a moment to engage with all my various personal marketing tools. I’ve barely even tweeted!

Unfortunately I wasn’t holed up all weekend because of a good book, but along the way I did happen to read one. So it’s okay, exhale, there’s still a review this week.

Faithful Place is the third in a series by author Tana French that centers on the undercover squad of a police department in Dublin (Ireland, guys). Although I would argue you should read the first two (mostly because Faithful Place was my least favorite), it isn’t necessary: The third book’s protagonist was but a periphery character in No. 2 The Likeness (though if you’re going to read The Likeness, you should read book No. 1, In the Woods, first. Those two are more closely related.)

Anywho, Faithful Place follows Frank Mackey, an undercover detective who hasn’t been to his hometown (ahem, Faithful Place) to see his family in upwards of 20 years, since he ran away from home at 18 or so. He’s drawn back to his old haunt when some locals find a suitcase that once belonged to his childhood sweetheart (with whom he had intended to run away, and who he’s always assumed blew him off at the last minute). What exactly happened to her, and their plans, is the rest of the story, none of which I intend to give away here.

Continue reading “It’s no mystery (just kidding, it is)”