Overall Rating: 4/5
Like so many others, I have spent the last few months dreaming about the day that I can travel again. I crave the bustle of an airport, the quietude of disconnecting during a long flight, and the excitement of exploring a place unknown…or really just any place that bears no resemblance to my couch. The Searcher is the escape that I needed – French skillfully transports her readers to an idyllic village in Ireland where we follow retired detective Cal Hooper as he seeks solitude after a rocky marriage. He soon realizes that dark secrets are brewing under the town’s veneer of tranquility but honestly? The mystery isn’t even the best part.
When I first started reading The Searcher, I was surprised at how slow the beginning was as I had expected a faster buildup. Instead, French invests in her characters and setting, utilizing the book’s real estate to introduce readers to their backgrounds and construct the world around them in phenomenal detail. I was swept away by her immaculate writing, with visions of the ragged edges of the mountain side and the sun-kissed long grass conjuring themselves in my mind in vivid color. The rustic countryside emerges as a character in its own right, contributing significantly to the ominous tone that is imbued in the plot. The Searcher is a mystery, yes, but it has so much more to offer in terms of well-developed protagonists as well as nuanced discourse around class and culture.
I have seen many describe The Searcher as a psychological thriller and it does share thematic characteristics with the genre. One of my favorite parts of the novel is French’s exploration of Cal’s psychology as he confronts the cultural and moral clash that ensues upon his arrival. Cal is ultimately an outsider and readers will find themselves mulling over the actions of those around Cal along with the protagonist himself. You just can’t quite put your finger on it. It’s in the sarcastic humor from the townspeople, the inflection in their tone, and the foreboding yet welcoming actions that they display that effectively build up the suspense throughout the plot. It’s subtle and powerful, and it is the unease compounded by this psychological play, as opposed to concrete plot events, that made this book feel special while keeping me on my toes.
The Searcher feels like a warm hug that wraps around you while you devour it along with a hot cup of coffee – a much sought out feeling of comfort as winter descends upon an already tumultuous year. I won’t lie: the mystery itself isn’t all that suspenseful, but I loved the writing. I would recommend this book to anybody interested in mystery, suspense, psychological thrillers, or anyone seeking solace within the pages of a book. This was the first book I read by Tana French and I’m already looking to add her prior work to my TBR list. If you have any recommendations, let me know in the comments!