Granny's Good Reads 

Sonia Lee is one of our most treasured customers and a voracious reader.

April 2017

 - Saturday, April 01, 2017
I’ve just discovered Tana French’s ‘Dublin Murder Squad’ series, which began in 2007 with the highly acclaimed In The Woods ($20). The series can be read out of sequence and I began with The Secret Place ($20)—a boarding school mystery whose narrator, Stephen Moran, is marking time in Cold Cases when teenager Holly Mackey brings him a card with the legend I KNOW WHO KILLED HIM and a photo of young Chris Harper. Chris, a boarder at St Colm’s school, has in the previous year been found dead in the grounds of St Kilda’s, a posh all-girls school, with his head bashed in, four hyacinths strewn on his corpse and a condom in his pocket. Holly, known to Moran from a previous case, has found the card pinned up in the Secret Place, a notice board for anonymous postings at St Kilda’s, where she is one of the boarders. Moran teams up with abrasive colleague Antoinette Conway to solve this still cold case and the two go back to St Kilda’s to investigate further. Moran proves adept at coaxing information from the girls and by the end of the day has eight suspects, four close-knit friends in Holly’s dorm and four girls in a rival clique headed by Joanne Heffernan, a terrifyingly precocious queen bee with a penchant for casually humiliating opponents and supporters alike. The action takes place over just one day, with flashbacks to the year before Chris died. It’s part police-procedural and part psychological thriller; the characterisation is superb and the teenspeak pitch-perfect. (Faithful Place ($20), number three in the series, has the backstory of Holly Mackey and her dad Frank, the head of Undercover.)
Moran and Conway team up again in French’s latest, The Trespasser ($23, b format due 6.17). This time Conway is narrator, so that a different lens is run over the pair’s relationship. Conway, who is mixed-race and never knew her Brazilian father, has an elephant-sized chip on her shoulder, so is very unpopular with her colleagues, who do their darndest to set her up for failure. She and Moran are perfect together, with easy-going Moran often stopping Conway from blowing a fuse. They now have to investigate the death of Aislinn Murray, a young receptionist found with a battered head, dinner in the oven and a table set for two—and it’s made clear to our sleuths that a quick solve would be welcome, since it’s obvious that bookshop proprietor Rory Fallon must have done it in a lovers’ tiff gone wrong. When O’Kelly, the Squad’s gaffer, gets their know-all colleague Breslin to supervise the investigation, they come under extreme pressure to put Rory in the frame. Breslin, who has ‘winner’s dazzle, the gold glow that shouts to everyone within range that this dude is something special: smarter, faster, savvier, smoother’, is clearly someone you want to hate, if not at first sight, then certainly when Conway and Moran come to suspect that he’s bent. The Trespasser had me on the edge of my seat and guessing all the way through. Tana French studied drama at Trinity College, Dublin, then worked in theatre for ten years and it shows in her writing. All her cast are superb troupers. Conway and Moran, for instance, are brilliant role-players, taking subliminal cues from each other, skilfully alternating their good-cop/bad-cop routine and always asking the vital ‘innocent’ question at just the right moment.
In the Woods begins in the summer of 1984 when three twelve-year-olds go into the woods near Knocknaree; two are never seen again, the third appears in a catatonic state with blood in his sneakers and no memory of what happened. Twenty years later a twelve-year-old girl is found murdered at the same spot. Rob Ryan, the survivor of the first incident, is now a police Detective, and he finds himself in charge of the case. He knows he should recuse himself from the investigation but keeps his past a secret from everyone but Detective Cassie Maddox, his partner in Operation Vestal. Instead he has a slow psychological meltdown as shards of memory come to the surface. The murder plot is absolutely riveting but it is the relationship between the two detectives which held my interest until the shocking ending.
Sadly there will not be another Cliff Hardy story because his creator Peter Corris has eye problems, so we have to say goodbye to our favourite gumshoe in Win, Lose or Draw. Gerard Fonteyn is a rich guy whose daughter Juliana has gone missing and Cliff takes up the job of finding her. The trail takes him to Norfolk Island and the Gold Coast, where he runs into numerous unsavoury characters such as shady brothel owners and crooked cops. Any Cliff Hardy story slips down as smoothly as Cliff’s favourite malt and we’ll miss him from Sydney’s mean streets. Goodnight Cliff Hardy, good luck and thanks for the memories. Sonia Lee