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Will the real murderer please stand up?

The Trespasser: A Novel - Tana French

The Trespasser, Tara French, author; Hilda Fay, narrator

From the first page, the book holds the reader in thrall. Antoinette Conway is a young, angry detective working for the Dublin Murder Squad. Although she really wanted the job, she has a chip on her shoulder and a persecution complex about the way the other members of the team treat her. Still, she has the makings of a really good detective, if given a fair opportunity. She works with her partner, Steve (another newbie like she is); he is one of the few male detectives not engaged in harassing her periodically, often in heinous ways. Antoinette has a tongue that is often vicious and crude in its attacks on fellow workers, and she has a temper to go along with it that seems in desperate need of being curbed.

When a young, beautiful woman, Aislinn Murray, is discovered brutally murdered in her own home, Antoinette and Steve are assigned the task of solving the crime. They are also asked to work with a more experienced and rather arrogant detective named Breslin. He has decided it is a case of domestic violence and is dead set on solving this crime quickly so he can get back to his more important cases. Their prime suspect turns out to be the victim’s new beau, Rory Fallon, who had a dinner date with her on the night she was murdered.

As the story investigates all of the people involved, the victim, her friend and family, the suspects and their backgrounds, the methods, motives and tactics of the police and journalists play a powerful role in the process. The picture painted of them is not pretty. The one seems intent on solving the crime, regardless of innocence or guilt and the other on promoting scandalous publicity for their own personal gain. Residents and politicians scream for a quick solution so they can go back to their normal lives. They seem to care little for the lives wrecked by the investigation which often attacks and implicates innocent people. The methods used by all investigators, journalists and concerned citizens seem more like blackmail than an honest attempt to solve the crime and put the criminal away. Everyone seems to have some kind of an agenda.

I was disappointed in the way Antoinette was portrayed. I was not sure why the color of her skin was emphasized. It seemed to play no pertinent role in the story. Also, I was disappointed that she was portrayed so vehemently as such a hard-nosed woman with a filthy mouth and a chip on her shoulder that she kept challenging others to knock off. She leapt to the nastiest conclusions and was overly judgmental. Her own personality bled into every action she took, rather than her skill as a detective taking precedence. She always felt the need to prove herself and her past behavior had left ugly rumors in their wake which others judged her by, even though some were often untrue and/or exaggerated. Her overly defensive behavior lent them credence. I would love to read a book about a female without baggage, one who achieves success, regardless of her race, religion or background, because she is skilled and worthy of respect from the get-go.

The book, I thought sadly, seemed to point to a society of crooked cops that gathered round to protect, each other even when innocent victims paid the price for their fellow officer’s crimes. Those officers and citizens brave enough to give evidence against the “bent” detectives were afraid that exposing them would negatively affect their own futures. They were often threatened with harassment and persecution. They would be shunned and maybe even injured. Their careers would be over. Journalists were portrayed as bloodthirsty cretins searching for a byline at any cost to those they smeared. Judging from the way news is covered today, this depiction may be closer to the truth than fiction!

The coincidence of the detective, Antoinette, and the victim, Aislinn, having been abandoned by their fathers worked well in the story. The knowledge of that connection allowed Antoinette to see herself more honestly and perhaps to mature and deal with others, and herself, more fairly. I found it interesting to watch Antoinette morph into someone who finally showed a bit of humility and introspection at the same time as the case also went from one that jumped to conclusions to one that was more interested in the truth. The two, the detective on a personal level, and the police on the criminal level of the investigation, seemed to work out the problem of ethics and the honest search for a solution, concurrently. As the story was revealed, both the detective and the squad were faced with the same dilemma of searching for answers, not creating them. How they each approached it was what made the story most interesting to me. Instead of looking for and relying on circumstantial evidence of crimes committed against herself personally in the squad room, and the crime committed against Aislinn, Antoinette and the detectives were forced to stop taking the easy way out, jumping to conclusions, often false, and instead were forced to deal with hard facts to reach the ultimate conclusion and solve the crime.

Although the language was over the top crude, there was no gratuitous sex to titillate readers. The story itself was the total draw! Although it was a bit longer than necessary, perhaps overly detailed at times, it was an interesting study of interrogation methods, criminal behavior and society’s ills when it comes to family, values, policing, and news coverage. The affects of all these patterns was exposed and would make for interesting and thought provoking discussions in a book group.

Some book group questions

1-Because the issue between Antoinette and her missing dad are not cleared up, do you think there will be a sequel?

2-Has the author left any clues about her next book?

3-What are the similarities between Antoinette and Aislinn? (the “d” and the “vic”)

4-What are the similarities between the prime suspect and a cop on the case? (Rory and McCann)

5-How did Antoinette react to her hidden anger and pain?

6-How did Aislinn react to her hidden anger and pain?

7-How did Rory react when he was dumped?

8-What were some similarities between Rory and McCann when it came to self-esteem?

9-Why were Rory and McCann so surprised that someone beautiful would care about them?

10-What kinds of feelings did the book promote about the police and journalists relationships?

11-What kind of feelings did you get about the police tactics and journalist’s behavior?
12-Did you like or dislike any of the characters?