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The Searcher

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Cal Hooper thought a fixer-upper in a bucolic Irish village would be the perfect escape. After twenty-five years in the Chicago police force and a bruising divorce, he just wants to build a new life in a pretty spot with a good pub where nothing much happens. But when a local kid whose brother has gone missing arm-twists him into investigating, Cal uncovers layers of darkness beneath his picturesque retreat, and starts to realize that even small towns shelter dangerous secrets.

464 pages, Kindle Edition

First published October 6, 2020

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About the author

Tana French

22 books23.8k followers
Tana French is the New York Times bestselling author of In the Woods, The Likeness, Faithful Place, Broken Harbor, The Secret Place, The Trespasser and The Witch Elm. Her books have won awards including the Edgar, Anthony, Macavity and Barry Awards, the Los Angeles Times Award for Best Mystery/Thriller, and the Irish Book Award for Crime Fiction. She lives in Dublin with her family.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 10,272 reviews
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,921 reviews290k followers
September 9, 2020
Cal feels like he ought to stand on a street corner handing out warnings, little pieces of paper that just say: Anyone could do anything.

Goodreads tells me I was reading this latest Tana French book for twelve days, though I'd say a good ten of those days was getting through just the first hundred pages. The Searcher was another slow-starter from French, in my opinion. Neither this book nor The Witch Elm have grabbed me as fully as her Dublin Murder Squad books always did.

That being said, once I did make it past those first hundred pages and finally settled into the rhythm of this story, I began to really enjoy it. Cal was far more interesting to me than Toby from her previous book. I also really liked the dynamic between the two main characters in The Searcher - Cal and Trey - and would liken it to a couple of other book relationships I've enjoyed, but it would be a bit of a spoiler to do so.

French returns to what I feel she does best with this book: grit and grime. The Searcher takes place out in rural Ireland, an isolated place of farms and local folk who've known each other's nasty business for decades. Hands get dirty, animals get killed, skinned, and eaten, not necessarily in that order. Into this wilderness comes an American ex-cop looking to settle down for a peaceful life.

Instead, Cal gets caught up in the disappearance of a local boy. Soon he is finding out that the idyllic place he imagined, the place of "no handguns, no copperheads or cottonmouths or rattlesnakes, no bobcats or bears or coyotes, no black widows, not even a mosquito" actually might be hiding all kinds of untold dangers. The comradeship and camaraderie between locals, which he so admired initially, begins to take on a threatening hue.

French hits on a couple of current issues, too, weaving them in subtly. Police shootings feature, as does a critique of social media morality. In other words, the kind where people yell over one another to compete to be seen as the most moral, or "woke", but of course French doesn't use that word.

I think, in the end, French really wanted to experiment by placing a stranger in the Irish setting she's by now so familiar with. She takes this Chicago cop who's used to having guns, pals on the force, and a back-up team at his disposal, and she strips all his resources and defenses away. Puts him in a strange land and lets him feel it out for himself. It's got the crime-solving excitement of the DMS books, but with an additional obstacle to overcome.

I'm still waiting for another Dublin Murder Squad book, but this wasn't half-bad.
Profile Image for Dorie  - Cats&Books :) .
960 reviews2,563 followers
October 29, 2020

It pains me to give a Tana French novel 3 stars, this was one of my most anticipated reads of 2020. I loved the Dublin murder mysteries and even the slow burn of The Witch Elm, but this one just didn’t do it for me. A 3 from me doesn't mean it's a bad book, just not one that I loved!

In looking back I realize that she does write male voices often but I think the choice of a retired ex-cop from Chicago perhaps just didn’t ring true to me. I live in Wisconsin but visit Chicago frequently and it’s certainly a far cry from the Irish countryside. I did like this explanation of why he retired, in part “I got weary, Cal said, bone weary.” He did. Every morning got to be like waking up with the flu, knowing he had to trek up a mountain”.

So Cal decided to move to a remote town in western Ireland, why he picked this location exactly is never explained. Perhaps he thought it was just far enough that the badness wouldn’t be found here. Of course he’s proven terribly wrong because there are bad guys and good guys everywhere. He purchases a dilapidated house and starts to work on it from the inside out. It isn’t long before his solitary life is invaded and he is pulled back into the investigative life he left behind.

We do meet some interesting characters here, one of which is Mart, Cal‘s neighbor. Surprisingly he seems to accept Cal, introduces him to lots of the neighbors at the local pub. He’s a more complicated character than we are at first lead to believe, but I pretty much had that figured out. Always watch out for the nice guys!

My favorite character was 13-year-old Trey, a child wise beyond 13 years considering what Trey has had to live with. Trey's father ran off and the mother is left with a handful of children to raise with little to no funds. Trey has no support system whatsoever. The child doesn’t attend school because Trey's mother is too exhausted to care. When brother Brendan disappears, Trey is beyond upset, is certain he would never leave, that something terrible has happened to him. After getting to know Cal in a roundabout way Trey finally asks him for his help. Although he claims to have retired he can’t seem to leave the matter alone, which gets him in a whole lot of trouble. With his father-like feelings for Trey I had to like Cal more than a little, even though I wanted to shout things at him periodically!!

Not much happened in this book until about the 80% point on my Kindle, it’s a long time to wait and I grew weary. It’s at this point that what is going on around here is uncovered, unfortunately it was quite predictable, given all the red herrings uncovered.

I was really hoping for a wow ending that would pull this up to at least a four star, unfortunately that didn’t happen. I strive for honesty in all of my reviews and it gives me no joy to report that this Tana French novel left me very disappointed. I would love to see her go back to female characters, like Antoinnette the awesome inspector from the Dublin murders series.

I will still follow this author because one disappointing novel doesn’t take away from the great novels she has previously written. It also hits at a bad time in our nation right now when reading a slow burn, depressing novel is hard to reconcile.

Go into this one blind or read a variety of reviews, there are lots of reviewers who enjoyed this one more than I did.

I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher through Edelweiss.
Profile Image for Nilufer Ozmekik.
2,067 reviews38.1k followers
October 10, 2021
Another outstanding, moving example of Tana French’s epic writing! With her remarkable skills she can create intense, realistic, dark, raw, rash portray of rural western Irish and let you have a memorable, breathtaking, journey!

This small town is the real protagonist of the story. As you start your reading, you learn to listen its own people’s struggles, sadness, demanding, hard life choices and accept the dynamics between the relationships. The town was like living, breathing, functioning organism with its own rules and patterns.

Everything starts with retired detective Cal Hooper’s moving to the small remote Irish who buys an old wreckage, dilapidated house by giving higher bid to beat a local man. Of course town’s people are reluctant to accept an outsider into their lives or welcome him with open arms.

The loner ex detective accepts his faith and focus on rebuilding his new nest, feeling someone’s scrutinizing eyes over him: Trey, a local boy watches him behind prying eyes, coming from dysfunctional family. He needs urgent help of Cal to find his missing brother.
Cal cannot find the peace in his new place and he reluctantly accepts to help the boy even though it means attracting more hostile threats of town’s people because he was about to open so many cans of worms and disturb the town’s people’s peaceful lives.

The depictions and detailed composition of rural Ireland was captivating. The pacing and creative storytelling were satisfying as always. The characters were not easy to empathize with but throughout your reading you get used to their rough parts of their characteristics and accept them as they are.

I’m giving four dark, mysterious, pastoral, impressive, meticulous depiction stars!

It is always pleasure to read French’s books.

Special thanks to NetGalley and Penguin Group/ Viking for sharing this remarkable ARC with me in exchange my honest opinions.

Profile Image for Nataliya.
713 reviews11.3k followers
October 12, 2020
“I got weary,” Cal says. “Bone-weary.” He did. Every morning got to be like waking up with the flu, knowing he had to trek miles up a mountain.”

Unhurried. Measured and unhurried are the first words that came to my mind when I was thinking how to describe Tana French’s newest book, The Searcher. Not slow - although I’m sure you’ll hear that - but precisely and deliberately unhurried.

I am not a huge fan of describing books in terms of other books or other authors, but I can’t think of a better comparison here. It reminded me of Stephen King at his best (or his best according to my opinion, for all it may be worth) - not the spooky stuff but those interludes when his regular Joe characters are settling in the rhythms of a small town, feeling out the place, before the shit hits the metaphorical fan, before things go wrong - but with enough foreshadowing that the fragile idyll is going to be over soon and bad things will come.

This is the mood and the tone here. It’s set in rural Ireland, a tiny insular rural community where more and more places are being abandoned by the youth in search of opportunities. Cal Hooper, a retired Chicago cop coming to terms with life change after his divorce, moves to this tiny place in search of calm and quiet, hoping for peace. But the peace is too fragile to last.
“One of the things that had caught his attention, when he first started looking into Ireland, was the lack of dangers: no handguns, no snakes, no bears or coyotes, no black widows, not even a mosquito. Cal feels like he’s spent most of his life dealing with feral creatures, one way or another, and he liked the thought of passing his retirement without having to take any of them into account. It seemed to him that Irish people were likely to be at ease with the world in ways they didn’t even notice. Now that rifle feels like something it would be good to have in the house, the sooner the better.”

Cal plans to restore the dilapidated old farmhouse he bought. He works at it, and takes walks, goes fishing, and enjoys the countryside, and is feeling out his new neighbors who started forming tentative friendships with him and are starting to accept him into the fold. He’s content - but he feels like this cannot last, like something is waiting to happen, and so do the readers. And yes, his new peaceful life gets a bit upturned when a local almost feral kid from a good-for-nothing family tried to enlist Cal to help find that kid’s missing older brother. And suddenly the close-knit community is starting to feel suffocating and shoulder-to-shoulder against the stranger who is about to dig up some metaphorical skeletons from their resting places. Very quickly the reassuring things can become menacing.
“Their decades of familiarity, which seemed like a comfort at the beginning of last night, weave themselves into an impenetrable thicket; its layers obscure every action and every motivation till they’re near indecipherable to an outsider.”

This is very different from French’s much lauded Dublin Murder Squad books. In pace - much slower. In tone - more wistful and contemplative and subdued. In the mechanics of narration - unlike all her prior books, this one abandons the intimacy of the first person narration. In the setup - as a former cop, Cal is unable to conduct the usual police-style interviews, leaving him with the need to figure out things in a more subtle approach. And in the spirit of the story - this one is not really so much about solving a crime as it is about Cal himself and things that he will and will not do, about his own moral code and how far it can be pushed. Morals versus manners, as Cal would explain.
“Cal has had enough of being discreet. He figures it’s time to kick a few bushes and see what scuttles out.”

It’s not a crime thriller, and if you go in expecting one you may end up sorely disappointed. It’s more of a literary novel by a writer who is known for psychological f*ckeries masquerading as crime novels. What happened to poor unfortunate Brendan Reddy is really not the point. What happens to the heart and soul of Cal Hooper and the community itself is the point. How the desired outcome is approached is what’s interesting - is the point getting what you should want or what you need? What do you view as justice - the punishment or the resolution? What is the goal of searching for answers?

Ultimately it’s 400+ pages of unhurried and measured character study - and the locale itself is one of the most important characters here. It’s atmospheric, it’s well-written and well-plotted, and shows that French can do very well outside the setting and style of her Dublin Murder Squad novels. It’s captivating and nuanced, and that pub-moonshine-subtle warning scene is done so well that I read it three times in a row for sheer enjoyment of seeing a writer excel at her craft. And yes, there are a few issues tacked on too strong, too artificially likely to make this book feel more “current”, but they are easy to overlook.

Don’t go into this novel expecting more of Dublin Murder Squad feel or your usual crime novel. It’s neither of those, and in this it is interesting and special. Prepare for the unhurried walks down Irish countryside while pondering morals, not manners - and before you know, French has done her magic again, differently this time but very much worth it.

4+ stars.
Profile Image for Lisa of Troy.
376 reviews2,795 followers
June 30, 2022
The slowest mystery that I have ever read.

Cal Hooper is a retired police officer who finds himself in Ireland, fixing up a rather old house on a small spot of land. One day, he is minding his own business, living the simple life that he has always wanted, when a young boy stops over at his house. The boy wants Cal’s help with finding out what happened to his brother who has gone missing. When the police don’t care about your problems, who can you turn to? Apparently, Cal Hooper.

The Searcher is set in modern-day Ireland, a setting that I love. Aside from the setting, I also enjoyed that the women were not depicted as boy crazed. However, this book is slow, painfully slow. I started listening at 1.5X speed and ended up at 2X speed. Every time, I tried to read The Searcher, I dreaded it.

Most of the book is Cal fixing his house, descriptions of hunting (even very gruesome details), and a lot of people that don’t know anything. Rooks, the birds (not the chess pieces), were mentioned 40 times! There is so much filler in this book that the editor should cut at least 70% of the book. There just is not enough action.

This is a book where the character loves to talk about every single possibility, every possible path. Usually, I enjoy hearing the character’s thoughts, but in this case, it is overly done.

When there finally is a reveal, the author stretches it out so much. In my opinion, the author overly explains events. Most of Cal’s background information arrives in the last half of the book. This is just too late. By the time that his background is finally, finally revealed, I just did not care anymore.

In conclusion, The Searcher is a solid pass from me. There are too many books to read for a pace this slow.

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Profile Image for Meredith (Slowly Catching Up).
770 reviews12.1k followers
November 1, 2020
“The dark is busy around here.”

The Searcher
is a character-driven mystery about a former cop whose quest to find peace in a small Irish town leads him into danger.

Cal Hooper, a 48-year-old former cop from Chicago, moves to a small village in Ireland to start over. Struggling to come to terms with the demise of the marriage and end of his career, Cal throws himself into repairing his ramshackle cottage. His days are fairly prosaic until 13-year-old Trey shows up with a mystery for Cal to solve, the disappearance of Trey’s 19-year-old Brendan. To humor Trey, Cal begins to investigate Brendan’s disappearance. He uncovers a dark web in his new tiny town, which threatens to destroy all Cal has worked to build.

This is a slow burn, atmospheric read. Cal’s cottage, the woods, and the village all play significant roles in the story. Cal’s relationship with nature and his new surroundings is tied to the events of the book, which I found intriguing. However, there is a hunting scene involving a rabbit that I could have lived without. This was my second Hurricane Zeta book, and the creepy undertones of the townspeople and the woods were enhanced by the storm and power outage.

The narrative is told entirely from Cal’s point of view. I wasn’t sure about French writing an American character, but she pulled it off (there were a few times that had me shaking my head, as Cal’s voice felt forced,) but in the end, his character worked for me.

The Searcher is slow, subtle, and different from other Tana French novels (in a good way). The mystery is more of a back burner, but it becomes a driving force towards the end. Really, this is about Cal coming to terms with loss and accepting his new life. I liked Cal, but Trey’s character was my favorite. Their friendship, while unexpected, works to hold this book together. There are a few surprises thrown in that I didn’t see coming, as I was so wrapped up in Cal’s head. The tension slowly builds, fueled by the atmosphere, leading to a tautly written, if somewhat anticlimactic conclusion.

Overall, this was a surprisingly good read (after The Witch Elm my expectations were low). I can imagine some readers will get frustrated with the pacing, especially in the beginning, but don’t give up--it’s worth the read!
Profile Image for Paromjit.
2,502 reviews24.5k followers
September 19, 2020
Tana French's latest slow burn of a standalone novel is rather different fare from her usual, set in a fictional West Ireland small town, Ardnakelty, a place where the reality bears little resemblance to the idyllic rural community where nothing much happens. American Cal Hooper is a burned out and disillusioned man, retiring from Chicago PD after seeing too many of the problematic issues that readers will be familiar with, given the contemporary focus on American policing and the continuing protests in the United States. With a daughter, but divorced from his wife, he decides to shift in another direction, to try and forge a life that brings him some measure of peace and which involves him moving to Ireland, buying a run down home that will require him to spend considerable time engaged in its renovations.

Cal appreciates the natural environment, and we are given in depth details of his work doing up his home, conversing with a neighbour, Mart, holding back from jumping into too hasty social interactions with people, preferring to observe instead. However, he finds himself drawn back into utilising his investigating skills, when a 13 year old youngster from a poor background, Trey, watches him closely, aware of his background in policing. Trey wants Cal to find out what happened to his brother, Brendan, who disappeared a little while ago, and the local police have shown little interest in looking into this. A tenacious and determined Cal searches for the truth, not put off in the slightest by the obstacles that litter his path.

This is not my favourite Tana French novel, but I still enjoyed the character driven mystery, particularly the strong evolving bond between Cal and Trey as they work together. The narrative brings out the nature of small town living, including the claustrophobic feel of it, providing the backgrounds of a range of different characters. The slow moving storytelling means this will require patience from some readers to get the most from it. A complex tale of mystery, secrets, friendships, morality and ethics, relationships, of being a man, justice and the natural environment. Many thanks to Penguin UK for an ARC.
Profile Image for karen.
3,968 reviews170k followers
January 15, 2021
oooh, goodreads choice awards finalist for best mystery & thriller 2020! what will happen?

answer: this will lose to the perfectly fine but

The Guest List, proving that everything about 2020 was broken.


tana french can do no wrong and we need to protect her at all costs: remove every pebble from her path, slather her with sunscreen, and for the love of god, if you find yourself in her vicinity, wear a fucking mask.

i'm sure no one will disagree with me on that, so here's where i sneak in one of those unpopular opinions. i think this is her best book yet. don't get me wrong, i adore the dublin murder squad books, and her releasing two standalone books in a row has made me impatient for their return, but i'm one of the people who loved witch elm, and this one kicks that one's ass.

set in the remote rural landscape of western ireland, this was marketed as "tana french writes a western!" and although i was skeptical at first, about halfway through, i realized it is SUCH a western. not only is the title a nod to The Searchers, but the genre conventions are all right there—the vast wilderness isolating a small population of folks in a self-governing bubble; accustomed to taking care of their own matters in their own way, and not taking kindly to outsiders. and then in rolls the lone stranger; a disruptive force challenging their way of life by taking up the cause of a wronged/powerless individual, thereby going against the collective druthers of the town and jeopardizing his own safety, all shot through with moral grey areas—it's western AF.

the story centers around cal, a recently retired, divorced policeman from chicago who left the force after becoming disenchanted with what he saw happening on the job; unable to condone questionable police behavior that jarred with his straight-shooting ‘good guys v bad guys’ worldview. anticipating a quieter, simpler life where he can reflect and get some good manly dirt under his fingernails, he moves into a fixer-upper in middle-of-nowhere ardnakelty, ireland; a place with no handguns, no copperheads or cottonmouths or rattlesnakes, no bobcats or bears or coyotes, no black widows, not even a mosquito, only to find himself even more uncertain about right and wrong, good and bad guys.

he learns pretty early on that small towns have their own deeply ingrained codes and mores, and while there may not be any snakes (thanks, st. patrick!), there are still dangers to navigate—a litany of social infractions illuminated for him by his new neighbor mart; a chatty older man who gives cal the lay of the land, riddled with proverbial landmines.

Listening to Mart, Cal has started to get an inkling of how tangled up things get around here, and how carefully you have to watch where you put your feet. Noreen, who runs the shop in the brief double line of buildings that count as Ardnakelty village, won't order the cookies Mart likes because of a complicated saga that took place in the 1980s and involved her uncles, Mart's father and grazing rights; Mart doesn't speak to an unpronounceable farmer on the other side of the mountains because the guy bought a pup that was sired by Mart's dog when it somehow shouldn't have been. There are other stories like that...he's gathered enough to know that he could have sat on someone's stool in the pub, or cut across the wrong piece of land on one of his walks, and that that could mean something.

mart is a respected figure in the town, and once cal wins his approval, mart becomes his virgil, taking him to the pub and introducing him to the locals, whose low-key mistrust of outsiders holds an especial antipathy towards americans; one rooted in broad stereotypes and their dealings with the previous tenant of cal's place. under mart's wing, cal's natural affability and cop-honed ability to read a room and adapt to his surroundings, playing up the 'hapless american' act and taking his cues from those around him, eventually wins him the town's grudging acceptance.

it isn’t until cal meets 12-year-old trey; a local kid whose beloved older brother brendan has gone missing, and reluctantly agrees to look into the matter, that the dangers larger than dog and sheep disputes begin to appear.

on the surface, there's no great mystery to a nineteen-year-old leaving a town that people—especially young people, have been leaving to seek better opportunities for quite some time, but as cal begins to poke around and make inquiries, the reticence and deflections he encounters seem to be more than just the typical "none of your business" attitude a small town constructs against outsiders, and their scrutiny of his pursuit becomes more palpable, pointed.

All of a sudden he has that sensation he kept getting...an intense awareness of the spread of the dark countryside all around his house; a sense of being surrounded by a vast invisible web, where one wrong touch could shake things so far distant he hasn't even spotted them.

french paints cal into a tricky corner, layering the complications of his 'fish out of water' status with his being a cop with no authority. he has the skills to subtly investigate a missing persons case; years of interrogation have fine-tuned his ability to read people and mask his intentions in casual conversations, and he's certainly able to track down witnesses, follow clues, and gather evidence, but with no gun, no badge, no backup, out of his element in a whole new world of unspoken rules and subtext, he's in an extremely vulnerable position.

cal is such a great character—he has a defined personal code and moral compass, but he doesn't have a hero-complex. he's respectful of how things work in his new surroundings, careful not to impose his ideals where they're not wanted, turning a blind eye to shadiness he would not have been able to ignore if he were back home. he's driven by a need to fix things—restoring the house and furniture, solving problems, teaching trey practical skills, but he's not looking to fix the way his adopted home handles its business.

the relationships in this book are sheer perfection. cal and trey's scenes together are so damn good, and the arc of their relationship; cal's gruff mentorship, trey's naked hunger for a male role model, and the strain certain revelations bring to their relationship are all rich and worthwhile and it never falls into easy sentimentality.

my favorite teachable moment: cal’s taxonomical lesson to trey about the difference between manners, morals, and etiquette is suitable for framing.

although it takes up far less room on the page, cal’s strained relationship with his adult daughter alyssa; their awkward phone conversations where it's clear that they're both trying to have a better relationship, but there's so much unspoken between them; carrying the weight of unhealed disappointments, his failure to understand her—it’s achingly, complexly real.

cal and mart are another excellent pair—there’s a real friendship blossoming there, but there's always a glint of some dangerous edge beneath mart's surface folksiness; their mutual withholding becoming a primal instinct, like animals circling each other. such potent, gritty stuff.

this is, like The Witch Elm, another stylistic/generic departure for tana french—but at the core of it lie the same strengths: she has a bone-deep understanding of what makes people tick, she's a measured and deliberate storyteller, and she always takes the less-travelled ethical road in terms of what is right, morally, and what is right, legally, avoiding clichéd answers about what constitutes justice or closure. it may not be a procedural, but her novels have always been very character-driven, and these standalones have given her more room to explore her themes and i am all for it.

if she wants to write a romance novel next, i'll damn well read a romance novel.


review to come, but good lord.


tana french is writing her take on a western??


please please please gimmie!!!!

come to my blog!
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
3,849 reviews34.9k followers
February 10, 2022
I never miss a Tana French book!
Tana delivered!
I was happy!!!

I suppose we, (die hards), could analyze this book and compare it to her others - etc.....

I thought about Rob - (from In the Woods) - Would he and Cal Hooper be friends? I think so!

I'm tired, hungry, still not feeling zippy-great - - so I'll write a review when feeling better ...

Little tidbits for now:
I liked Cal Hooper. My mouth watered for his cookies and cooking.
I liked his aloof kindness and compassion with thirteen year old Trey. I felt comfort with Cal.
I enjoyed his carpentry skills,(and his grandfather's tools).
His 'cop' skills came in handy. I trusted him.
Cal had a warm cautious and conscientious way of being.
Cal's relationships were all touching....
with Trey, Caroline, (Brendan's girlfriend), and other community folks --

Trey -- was a wonderful character --
Loved the setting, atmosphere, descriptions, the dialogue, the intensity in the pub, the mystery, I just like it all!
And...maybe this quickie --(from the top of my head -review) --is good enough!!!!
Easy 5 star enjoyment -- easy reading -easy to engage with.......

Love Tana French -- I'm a happy camper!!!
Profile Image for David Putnam.
Author 15 books1,436 followers
December 20, 2020
Three stars, this one wasn’t really my kind of book too slow of a burn. The conflict (story arc, 4c’s conflict, complication, crisis conclusion) wasn’t set until page 78. The business of establishing character, setting and what the story is going to be about took too long. There was a lot of painting rooms in the house and details about rehabbing an old desk. Some other authors do the same thing, delay setting the conflict, but they also add in micro conflicts that pick up the story on their back and carry the prose along to the first dynamic scene where it lights off. Those micro conflicts were not present here. Once the conflict is set here there are only smatterings of kick-starting the main plot and it doesn’t really engage until after page 100. Yikes.
The character is well-drawn and three dimensional but for me there just wasn’t enough going on. So, this book gets an “Eh.” It’s all a matter of preference though. I like to be dropped into the “Fictive dream,” and I just couldn’t get it going here.
Profile Image for Melissa ~ Bantering Books.
164 reviews694 followers
December 5, 2020
Be sure to visit Bantering Books to read all my latest reviews.

Review first published by Mystery and Suspense Magazine on 11/29/20.

Tana French is so good.

For me, she’s a bit like Stephen King. By this, I mean – she can write on and on (and on and on) about the minutest, most mundane details of everyday life, and I lap it all up. Time and again. Every page of it, regardless of the subject matter.

She could write an entire chapter describing the tranquility of drying paint, and I would devotedly hang on her every word. She could write about nothing, and it would leave me begging for more.

Consistently, French’s crime novels are better than most, if not always excellent, and her latest standalone, The Searcher, is no exception. Even though it may somewhat pale in comparison to her Dublin Murder Squad series and not be my favorite of her novels, it is still, in its own right, an immersive, compelling, and superbly-written literary mystery.

Looking for a fresh start, Cal Hooper leaves the city life behind to move to small-town Ireland. Recently divorced and newly retired from the Chicago police force, he purchases a derelict house in the Irish countryside, determined to peacefully spend his days renovating his new home.

Until a local kid, Trey Reddy, comes calling, asking for his help. Trey’s brother, Brendan, has gone missing, and Trey is desperate to find him. Not wanting to be part of an investigation, Cal first refuses to become involved. But thanks to Trey’s unorthodox powers of persuasion, Cal’s resolve slowly crumbles. Soon, Cal and Trey have trouble coming at them from all sides as they find themselves trapped in a dangerous web of secrets and lies.

The Searcher is one of those novels that sneaks up on you. It crawls under your skin, digs into your bones, and slowly consumes every inch of you.

While reading it, I was aware that I was enjoying it. And I knew that for too long, I had sorely missed the depth of French’s writing. But it’s almost as if I didn’t fully comprehend how engrossed I was in the story. It was only when I put the book down and walked away from it that I realized how constant of a presence Trey and Cal were in my mind, how relentlessly the story lingered in my thoughts.

Instinct and years of reading experience, however, indicate that my love for The Searcher will not be shared by all. Those who enjoy mysteries with quick tempos and nonstop twists may find it to be lacking the excitement they crave. For the novel slowly burns at a low flame, with a deliberately steady tempo. The story is never hurried. It’s never rushed. And the pace never quickens, with the ending even being slow to unfold, straight through to the final page.

As with all of French’s novels, The Searcher is also fueled foremostly by its characters, rather than the plot. Therefore, I think some readers may find the novel to be tedious. I, for one, adore character-driven stories. And for what it’s worth, I believe French writes some of the best. Her meticulous characterization skills are revered far and wide. She is so practiced at it that, for her, it’s virtually a science. It’s as if her characters leap from the page, they feel that alive.

And she doesn’t only do this with her major characters, such as Cal and Trey. She gives her minor characters the same treatment. Cal’s neighbors and the various townspeople are just as brilliantly crafted, with uniquely individual personalities.

In this novel, too, the landscape is larger than life. The mountains, plains, and bogs of the Irish countryside are all richly described and carefully constructed on the page. French puts forth as much effort into creating the atmosphere and setting as she does her characters.

The mystery of Brendan’s disappearance, though, is where the novel slightly stutters. The who, what, where, and why of it are fairly transparent. Furthermore, it’s tough to believe that Cal, a seasoned detective from Chicago, fails to immediately see all that is before him. Especially when I can effortlessly link the puzzle pieces together from my reading chair.

In the end, the obvious solution to the what happened and the whodunit did not in any way dilute my pleasurable reading experience. The Searcher is, hands down, one of the best mysteries I have read all year. If not, the best.

And once again, I am left begging for more.

Bantering Books
Profile Image for JanB .
1,113 reviews2,155 followers
November 12, 2020
Cal, newly divorced and retired from the Chicago PD, moves to a remote village in Ireland looking for a quiet, peaceful life, a place that couldn’t be more different than Chicago. He’s life-weary and his relationship with his ex-wife and adult daughter is troubled.

As he renovates his dilapidated cottage he uses the isolation and physical labor as a way to heal. But there’s no privacy in a small village, and, in fact, Cal misses human interaction. He begins to meet his neighbors at the local watering hole and also befriends a local boy, Trey, who is from the wrong side of the tracks and has a secret of his own. It’s a friendship that benefits both, and it was wonderful and heartwarming to watch their friendship blossom as Trey helps with the work on his house, and Cal teaches him new skills. Cal is a true Renaissance man with many skills but those skills are tempered with compassion and goodness.

Trey has a rough home life and a beloved brother, Brendan, who has disappeared without a trace. Trey knows Cal is a retired PO and begs Cal to help locate him. As with most small towns, secrets run deep and as Cal begins to uncover them, he receives subtle threats that eventually become not-so-subtle.

Unsettling things begin to happen in the community and the good ‘ole boy camaraderie in the local pub has an undercurrent that makes Cal wary. The growing sense of tension and unease that eventually explodes is the type of subtle suspense I love in literary fiction.

I enjoy the Dublin Murder Squad series but this was a terrific, well-written, atmospheric standalone. Few authors can write this type of suspense as well as Tana French. I particularly love the type of slow burn where I’m privy to the daily routines and the private thoughts and feelings of the MC. I loved everything about this story: the setting, the colorful characters, and the growing tension.

I often look for meaning in a book’s title and in this case it’s very fitting. Does Cal find what he’s searching for? I won’t say, but I loved the ending and found it to be perfect and satisfying.

• This was a buddy read with Marialyce and we both found it a pleasure to immerse ourselves in such brilliant writing and character development.
• For our duo review please visit https://yayareadslotsofbooks.wordpres...
Profile Image for Susanne.
1,155 reviews36.2k followers
November 13, 2020
“The Searcher”: A novel you feel in deep recesses of your bones, kind of like changes in the weather.

“The Searcher” is a character driven novel, first and foremost. The characters are brilliantly plotted, and written to absolute perfection.
They are rich, dynamic, difficult and stubborn. Having undergone life’s trials and tribulations, they are strong, resilient and unrelenting. Some are good, kind and hard working, others not so much. In this novel, the characters are what drew me into the story immediately.

This novel is a slow burn wherein the story builds and builds. Then there are the gorgeous descriptions of the vivid landscape, the weather (yes, the weather), home remodeling, and of course, the characters, always the characters. Let’s not forget the element of suspense and the unofficial investigation that ensues involving two unforgettable characters and the relationship that evolves between them.

Cal Hooper is a former Detective with the Chicago PD who moves to Ardnakelty, a small town in West Ireland to start over. His plans from here on out are to fix up his new home, fish, hunt, rest and relax.

When thirteen year old Trey begins terrorizing his homestead, Cal realizes that Trey has an ulterior motive. Several months ago, Trey’s older brother Brendan went missing and no one in the village has done anything about it. Now that Cal has arrived in town, Trey wants Cal's help in finding out what happened.

Cal is driven, hard working, funny, kind, intuitive and smart. Trey is assertive, attentive, inquisitive, scared, sweet, poverty-stricken and wise. More than anything, Trey wants to find his brother and he knows that Cal is his best bet. At first, Cal agrees to investigate, simply because Trey won’t let up and then it becomes clear that there may in fact be something to Trey’s story. The camaraderie that develops between the two is sheer brilliance. Cal becomes a friend, and perhaps a father figure to Trey and it is the relationship between them that makes this novel wholly special.

The investigation into what happened to Trey’s brother, while a huge part of this story, took second place for me. The armchair detective in me realized at the outset what happened to Brendan and who was responsible, though it in no way took away from my enjoyment of this book. I loved the characterizations, the development of all of the characters’ relationships and the investigation that took place. I felt every ounce of this story and I savored it.

In short, I adored “The Searcher” for exactly what it was: a character driven plot which included a suspenseful storyline.

Tana French is a prolific author and remains one of my favorites. I love her writing style and I am a huge fan of her characters. Someday, I would love to see her return to the Dublin Murder series and the characters of a) Rob Ryan (I need to see what has happened to his character after all of this time!) and b) Stephen Moran (who I still have a huge crush on (even though I’m twice his age)).

For those of you who love brilliantly plotted character driven suspense novels, read Tana French, I promise you will be rewarded.

Published on Goodreads on 10.25.20.
Profile Image for Liz.
1,916 reviews2,350 followers
February 3, 2021
I had seen all the reviews that warned this one was a slow start. Yes, it does take a while for the story to gear up. And if you’re looking for something fast paced, this isn’t it. But to be honest, I liked Cal Hooper so much, I was happy to just spend time with him. And it never felt like it dragged, just that it moseyed more than jogged. It’s a story meant to be savored, not gulped.
Cal has retired from his time as a Chicago detective to a fixer up in the Irish countryside. There, he meets a young boy distraught over the disappearance of his older brother. The Garda aren’t interested, so Cal starts doing his own research.
French totally captures the small town feel, the shared history, the busy bodies, the way people blow hot and cold if they don’t like what you’re doing. There are some wonderful characters, not just the two main ones. But Trey will break your heart.
In fact, this story tugged on my heartstrings in a way that most mysteries don’t even attempt.
I found I was looking for reasons to listen to just one more chapter. The narrator, Roger Clark sounded exactly like I expected Cal to sound. He did a superb job.
Profile Image for jessica.
2,478 reviews29.7k followers
July 28, 2021
this reminded me a lot of jane harpers books - the setting and the characters totally steal the show, the setting specifically. it honestly felt like i was in a small village in the irish countryside where everyone knows each other and their business. its an immersive narrative that i havent experienced from TFs storytelling before, so it was a nice surprise.

and its a good thing that those aspects were such quality because i found the plot, especially the ending, to be so anti-climatic. i dont think ive ever read a book where and let me tell you what. what a disappointment. i understand that it is a definite conclusion (it answers all the questions), but its the kind of conclusion that makes following an investigation for 450 pages feel not worth it? i dont know how to describe it.

overall, there are some really great things about this book, especially if you enjoy connecting to characters and their environment - its a new side to TF that i honestly really liked seeing - but i just cant get over how let down i am by the ending.

3.5 stars
Profile Image for Roman Clodia.
2,357 reviews2,287 followers
August 17, 2020
Wait, wait, just 2 stars for *Tana French*? One of my all-time favourite authors who has never got below 4 stars from picky me? Well, I'm sorry fellow French fans but this one just left me flummoxed...

Writing, unusually, in the 3rd person, this has an unconvincing central character in Cal who is a retired Chicago police detective who is a bit burned out, disillusioned (his partner shot an unarmed Black boy in a timely incident), and still mourning his broken-down marriage who chooses to buy a shack in the middle of nowhere in Ireland, a shack without even running water which he's planning to do up.

Now, given the insular nature of the small agricultural community, the fact that young people leave as there's nothing to do unless they inherit the family farm, we'd expect this American stranger to struggle with the locals but no: he's welcomed in the little community, the local shopkeeper is match-making within seconds and, once Cal gets his teeth into the disappearance of a young man, people are happy to talk to him and uncover their secrets. None of this rang true to me at all. And it's s-l-o-o-o-w. Now, I was one of the people who *loved* The Wych Elm so I don't mind slow if it's slow and purposeful - but this gives us page after page of sanding down drawer runners and teaching a young boy how to shoot rabbits and details of what Cal is eating and what cookies (do Irish people use 'cookies' for biscuits?') his neighbour likes...

The thing about French that I love is that she gives us a gripping mystery but also uses the form to explore wider themes: trauma, identity, love appear again and again, treated with originality and integrity and a humane empathy. I couldn't find anything much beneath the surface story of this book. Maybe I was missing something?

So it's with a heavy heart that I'm rating this as just 2 stars: I found it ponderous and unconvincing and found myself skimming restlessly as Cal starts working on his drawer runner again...

Thanks to the publisher for an ARC via NetGalley
April 16, 2021
EXCERPT: He's halfway through his second pint before he tunes into the argument going on down the bar. It catches his ear because it sounds unusual. Mostly the arguments in here are the well-worn kind that can be made to stretch for years or decades, resurfacing periodically when there's nothing fresh to discuss. They involve farming methods, the relative uselessness of local and national politicians, whether the wall on the western side of the Strokestown road should be replaced by fencing, and whether Tommy Moynihan's fancy conservatory is a nice touch of modern glamour or an example of jumped-up notions. Everyone already knows everyone's stance on the issues - except Mart's, since he tends to switch sides regularly to keep things interesting - and is eager for Cal's input to mix the conversation up a little.

This argument has a different ring to it, louder and messier, like it's one they haven't practiced. 'There's no dog could do that,' the guy at the end of the bar is saying stubbornly. He's little and round, with a little round head perched on top, and he tends to wind up on the wrong end of jokes; generally he seems okay with this, but this time he's turning red in the face with vehemence and outrage. 'Did you even look at them cuts? It wasn't teeth that done that.'

ABOUT: THE SEARCHER - Cal Hooper thought a fixer-upper in a remote Irish village would be the perfect escape. After twenty-five years in the Chicago police force, and a bruising divorce, he just wants to build a new life in a pretty spot with a good pub where nothing much happens.

But then a local kid comes looking for his help. His brother has gone missing, and no one, least of all the police, seems to care. Cal wants nothing to do with any kind of investigation, but somehow he can't make himself walk away.

Soon Cal will discover that even in the most idyllic small town, secrets lie hidden, people aren't always what they seem, and trouble can come calling at his door.

MY THOUGHTS:For some unknown reason, I haven't read anything by Tana French for several years. But I am glad I decided to resume our relationship with The Searcher, very much a character driven mystery.

Her characters are 'characters': from Cal, fresh out of Chicago who came looking for a small place, a small town in a small country, settling on Ireland because at least he wouldn't have to learn a new language; to Noreen who runs the shop in the brief double line of buildings that counts as Ardnakelty village, and who won't order the cookies Mart likes because of a complicated saga that took place in the 1980s and involved her uncles and Mart's father and grazing rights.

The townsfolk are insular, almost feudal. They will look out for and protect one another, even punish one another, but are slow to accept change or new people into their midst. The 'bush telegraph' is alive and well in Ardnakelty. At one point, Cal concedes that 'a guy can't pick his nose around here without the whole town telling him to wash his hands.' The pub, Sean Og's, is the social centre of village life, along with Noreen's store, where you will be served a healthy slice of gossip along with your grocery order. Unless, of course, you're on the outer, in which case all you will get is misdirection and obfuscation at best; at worst, stony silence and a withering stare. Or, a warning.

The beauty of The Searcher lies in its characters, who come very much alive with French's skilful depiction. There are many laugh out loud moments, but also moments of deep emotional complexity. This was a slow read, in the context that I took my time and lingered over passages, enjoying the depth of the characters and the complexity of their thought processes.

This is not a thriller. The Searcher is an atmospheric mystery underpinned with a lurking menace. It is a portrait of a small village determined to protect itself. It is an immensely satisfying read.


#TheSearcher #NetGalley

THE AUTHOR: Tana French, born 1973 in Burlington, Vermont, is an American-Irish writer and theatrical actress. She is a longstanding resident of Dublin, Ireland. Her debut novel In the Woods, a psychological mystery, won the Edgar, Anthony, Macavity, and Barry awards for best first novel. She lives in Dublin with her family.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Penguin General UK via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Searcher by Tana French for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and my webpage https://sandysbookaday.wordpress.com/...
Profile Image for Sandy.
873 reviews214 followers
September 23, 2020
3.5 stars

There are a handful of authors on my “No-Brainer” list. Their books are the ones I automatically reach for.…don’t need to see the cover, read the synopsis or check any reviews. Just gimme.

That doesn’t mean all of their books were 5 star reads. You always enjoy some more than others but something about their writing style and/or characters keeps me coming back. Ms. French is one of those authors & this book is no exception. All her books contain an element of crime but some are driven by suspense while others focus on the characters. This story is more about how the characters are affected by a crime than the crime itself.

Cal Hooper is a man who doesn’t mess around when he decides he needs a change. In short order he retired from the Chicago P.D., got divorced & bought a cottage in rural Ireland sight unseen. Yep, it’s a handyman special but he now has nothing but time. Let the renovations begin.

At first Cal’s solitude is only broken by visits from Mart, his elderly cookie-scarfing neighbour. But he soon senses another presence. It turns out to be 13 year old Trey Reddy, a shy kid who’s heard about this odd American. And he wants to hire him. Trey’s brother Brendan disappeared a while back & no one seems to care. Not the local cops, not even his worn out mother. Trey figures it’s because he’s a Reddy….a name synonymous with the Irish equivalent of trailer trash.

Cal came here to leave his old life behind. He’s lost his inner compass, that thing that made him trust his own judgement. In its place is self-doubt & uncertainty as to who he is now & where he belongs. You get the sense he & the old cottage have a lot in common. Both need someone to peel away layers, repair what’s broken & build them back up.

Cal chose his new home based on location. As an outsider in a rural area, he thought he’d have the physical & emotional space he needs. Now he’s buying cookies for a nosy neighbour while dodging the local matchmaker. Trey shows up most days to help with the renos. The kid’s quiet desperation finally gets to him & Cal agrees to look into Brendan’s disappearance. Oh man, be careful what you wish for.

So….a wee heads-up for all you French fans. Don’t go into this expecting a tense, suspenseful read akin to the Dublin Murder Squad books. It’s more like her last book, a slow burn type of story with fully realized characters & atmospheric prose. Yes, there is crime but it’s almost incidental. What you have is a beautifully written narrative that is completely character driven. It’s moody, descriptive & some scenes hurt my heart.

As I read I couldn’t help but think of Shane, the classic western. A solitary stranger arrives in town & is approached by a poor kid up against locals intent on maintaining the status quo. All the ingredients are there, delivered in Irish vernacular. Just don’t expect any white hats.

So maybe leave your preconceptions at the door. The depiction of setting & language is spot on & you’ll soon find yourself surrounded by misty rains & 40 shades of green. It’s a quiet, well written character study that deals with themes that will resonate no matter where you call home.
Profile Image for Jaidee .
560 reviews1,023 followers
March 5, 2022
3 "darkly beautiful but highly flawed" stars !!!

Boyo boyo does Tana French have some lovely writing chops on her ! Friends on GR and IRL have been urging me to read this author for years and I am finally glad to have made her acquaintance.

What I loved and admired:

1. Her detailed, interesting and colorful descriptions of both weather and landscape. They serve as not only poetic fodder but deepen the dark and mysterious atmosphere of rural Ireland.
2. The dialogue and interpersonal relationships were mostly bang on and full of a vivid realness that slowly reveal themselves on the darkness that lays partially revealed under pub nights, Irish folk songs and playful banter between men that have grown up in the area with all the tribal rules and regulations.

Both of these points were at least 4 star excellent if not 4.5. This is very good fiction writing although not literary as many people feel.

What minor qualms I had

1. This book took way too long to draw me into the story. I would say to myself over the first quarter of the book...com' on and git crackin Tana !

The troublesome bits

1. I found the psychology of the main players a combination of cliche superficial stock characters that we find in any American crime drama albeit most of them had an Irish brogue. This was incredibly disappointing to me with the high calibre of Ms. French's atmospheric and elegant prose.
2. Number 1 led to characters behaving in ways that did not seem realistic to this reader but rather for overly dramatic effect and at times cheap sentimentalism (that I must admit brought a green Irish tear or two to my eyes)

All in all this was a mixed bag of shamrocks for me. I know though that Ms. French is able to definitely able to create four leaf clovers that perhaps were lost in this particular stand alone drama mystery.

Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,686 reviews14k followers
October 22, 2020
Very different from her other books and the first not set in Dublin. Instead it is set in a small Irish Village, a village of farmers, fishermen and people who have lived there for quite some time. Cal, our narrator, is a Chicago cop who has left that vocation. He is a divorced father of a grown daughter, whom he misses dearly. He has come to Ireland, this village, to find peace and a place where he can be pretty much left alone. He bought an old, dilapidated, long abandoned house which he is repairing, fixing some furniture left by previous owners. It is while engaged with this work that he meets Trey, a young teenager who will eventually ask him to find a missing, older brother.

Although there is a missing boy, this is not really a mystery, or not only a mystery. It is very slowly paced, a measured sloshed that allows the reader the opportunity to totally know the characters and their environment. To notice the details, the setting, and the feelings that live within. The slowness also serves as a way to ratchet up the tension, the insidiousness that grows as more in uncovered, discovered. There is violence, but not more than is necessary to serve the storyline.

Ultimately it is a story if a unique, multi generational friendship and of people that want to live their lives they way they always have, without interference. Also a book that highlights poverty and what the lack of opportunities will compel people to do, desperation. I enjoyed it, but be warned it is more a quieter, immersive read, not what I would call a thriller. This author though, sure can write and exceedingly well at that.

ARC from Netgalley.
Profile Image for Linda.
1,167 reviews1,212 followers
December 11, 2020
"The idea of a world with no quest in it has left her lost."

Tana French's eloquent line left me to ponder. Perhaps because it's all part of the human experience. The searching for answers to the unknown where the question itself is off the grid. But isn't life itself a kind of an odyssey that takes us over rough waters and near drowning experiences? Now....more than ever.

Former Chicago police detective Cal Hooper sets himself in the pursuit of a different plane of existence. He's retired from the force and has stepped aside from his long term marriage to Donna. Their relationship suffered from his inability to untangle himself from the demands of his work. He still maintains a closeness with his daughter Alyssa who is living on her own. Intermittent phone calls keep them in touch.

Cal reaches the next level of passage as he purchases land and a run-down cottage in the highlands of Ireland. He desires space, no language interferences, or even people injecting themselves into his personal life for that matter. But Cal will find that there is no escape from the human element. Especially from determined, hard-headed, persistent individuals on a mission.

No matter how isolated you feel that you are, people have an innate radar system within them. Cal's neighbor, Mart, strikes up a friendship with Cal over special cookies. Cal picks them up at Noreen's local store. Cal begins to have a soft spot for the old man, his dog, and his sheep. Mart helps him adjust to country life and the quirks of his fellow neighbors and pub goers. As Cal begins to renovate his cottage, he's almost believing that life is grand.

But Cal hasn't met Trey yet. Trey shows up at his door wanting to hire Cal. His teenage years don't quite provide leverage. Trey's brother, Brennan, has gone missing. Cal tries to convince Trey that Brennan, nineteen, has probably gone off on a lark. Homelife is in turmoil since their father ran off leaving their overburdened mother with nothing but a house full of kids.

Here's where Tana French constructs a bridge between the cop beaten up by life and a young boy frustrated by the hand he has been dealt. Cal's resources will be limited, but he finally concedes and promises Trey that he will do a bit of investigation. But as Cal uses his talent of prying into people's conversations and lifestyles, he'll come upon more than he's ever bargained for. And how much should he reveal to Trey?

The Searcher is a slow, simmering mystery without the "thriller" aspect to it. It's deeply character driven with a wide expanse of the Irish countryside. The Searcher is all about reactions. As readers, we experience both the cause and the effect of choices made with knee-jerk decisions that are so emotionally based. And we observe the aftermath of those same decisions. French knows how to set up a scene and she inserts just the right personalities at just the right time.

This was my first time reading Tana French. Where have I been? After reading The Searcher, I'm making room for the talented Tana French on my bookshelf.
Profile Image for Julie .
3,990 reviews58.9k followers
January 28, 2022
The Searcher by Tana French is a 2020 Viking publication.

When Cal, a cop from Chicago, retires, he chose to move to a small community in Ireland, buy a fixer upper, and now spends most of his time working on his house, enjoying his solitude.

When a local teen, named Trey, begins hanging around, and eventually gets around to asking Cal to look into the sudden disappearance of a family member, Cal discovers the nice community he’s made himself a part of isn’t all that nice…

This story moves as slow as molasses. It took an age for Trey to finally tell Cal what was going on, for the investigation to get off the ground, and for some sort of suspense to develop.

While I did like Cal and Trey, and the dynamic that developed between them, the plot was pretty dull, and suspense fell flat.

Although French promised this book would not be as depressing as her last stand-alone effort, it was still a melancholy affair, and I can’t say I was happy about the way the crime elements wrapped up. I’m not sure it was a win, to be honest, and it left me feeling dissatisfied.

Overall, this second stand-alone is better than that last, for sure, but it still didn’t grab me the way I’d hoped it would.

3 stars
Profile Image for Anne Bogel.
Author 6 books50.5k followers
October 20, 2020
I've read every Tana French novel to date, yet I was NERVOUS to pick this one up because the critical reviews ... are not good. And then nothing happened for the first 125 pages.

I did enjoy it well enough in the end, but it's certainly different in feel than her Dublin Murder Squad books. French calls The Searcher "her version of a Western," and for the first time, her protagonist is American—a retired Chicago cop who quit the force when he began to doubt his own moral code, and wanted to move far away to start over in a small Irish village. This is also the first time she's written in the third person, and as a writer, I enjoyed noting how that affects the telling.

If you're looking for a gripping novel that won't let you go, this isn't it. I would only give the story three stars. But for careful prose from a seasoned writer, and an especially interesting 13-year-old character, this may be worth picking up.
Profile Image for Ellis.
1,196 reviews130 followers
August 14, 2020
I received a copy of this from Netgalley in exchange for a review.

I'm obviously going to be glaringly in the minority on this one, but folks, it gives me absolutely no joy to report that among the many real horrors 2020 has wrought, one of its lesser woes includes a bad Tana French book. Cal Hooper has retired from the Chicago police force after his divorce and purchased a dilapidated cottage in a small Irish village. At the start of the book he feels like he's being watched, and so he is, by a local child whose brother is missing and would like help figuring out what happened to him from the former cop. The ensuing story is a predictable slog, written in bloody present tense (my most loathed of tenses) for no good reason. Local child is the only character who isn't flat (charitably, Cal's neighbor the saucy Irish auld guy isn't so bad and has some nice dialogue) and Cal himself is a terrible protagonist. And while I know from terrible Tana French protagonists, she being after all the writer who gave us Rob Ryan and my personal favorite, Scorcher Kennedy, Cal isn't terrible because he's a misogynist like Rob or as amazingly self-centered as Scorcher, he's awful because he's just not very interesting. Cal thinks like a detective and wants to get answers like a detective but has no legal right or reason to be investigating, so his police work for the first half of the book basically amounts to registering verb tenses while having the same conversation with four or five other characters. It's a mildly bizarre choice for French to have made him an American who has recently moved into the area, because most of said investigation hinges on having implausibly revealing chats with locals who don't know him from Adam.

A note on American cops: Cal muses on Chicago PD's departmental sensitivity training, annoyed that it teaches his fellow cops nothing about "not shooting a guy dead on a traffic stop because he happened to be black and a second too slow in following orders." This inner monologue and a later story about being involved in and bewildered by a shooting involving a young black man - good news, the young man does not die! - seem like French's way of showcasing Cal's status as a Good Cop, given the tendency of real American police to commit racially motivated extrajudicial murders, but while I appreciate that she doesn't necessarily gloss over that fact, it makes me wonder if giving Cal the ability to comment on it is why she chose to make him an American despite how it unnecessarily overcomplicates things. I'll be blunt - had I not been obligated to provide a review, I would have given up on this book early on because life is too short, and although it picked up a bit about 2/3rds of the way through, I sadly got nothing from having forced myself through and finished. Thinking on Scorcher Kennedy has made me want to go read a Dublin murder mystery. I'm not ever going to give up on Tana French as a go to author, but neither am I ever going to revisit this one.
Profile Image for Ceecee.
1,856 reviews1,369 followers
September 19, 2020
4-5 stars

Cal Hooper, ex Chicago PD, relocated to the rural west of Ireland after retirement and the break up of his marriage. He’s fixing up a wreck of a house he bought for a song, now he knows why it was so cheap! He is befriended by his neighbour Mart Larvin who makes this outsider welcome. He feels he is being watched which transpires to be Trey Reddy, a teenager who eventually asks him to find missing brother Brendan.

I think this book proves you don’t have to throw everything but the kitchen sink into a plot for it to be good. If you want to read an all action thriller then this isn’t for you but if you want a beautifully written, fascinating slow burner that encapsulates rural Ireland and depicts its lovely people then it is. The pace matches the rural surroundings where the pace of life is slower. I really enjoyed being immersed in the storytelling with its rich characters, great craic and building moments of suspense and tension while Cal catches on to what is going on. I love the images of the rooks laughing at him as he tries to make sense of a different world and not disrupt it too much. It’s very funny in places and I laughed out loud at some of Mart’s thoughts! He is a fantastic character as are all his mates in the bar.

This is Tana French’s take on a western and I can see the many analogies clearly in the narrative. For example, Cal is a settler in a new land, he’s almost building his home almost from scratch, there’s a bar/saloon, poteen for moonshine and some of the villagers are like cowboys looking for trouble and certainly finding it!! However, there are definitely 21st Century issues afoot here. There’s acceptance of the truth even though it may not be conventional- maybe another western analogy? I like the way it finishes symbolically with a sense of renewal, with rifts and damage repaired which is very clever.

Overall this is an almost lyrical read, it’s captivating and an atmospheric depiction of rural Ireland which took me right back there. Some of the descriptions are superb and the characterisation is excellent.

With thanks to NetGalley and Penguin General UK for a much appreciated ARC for an honest review
Profile Image for Elle.
584 reviews1,254 followers
October 19, 2020
Tana French could teach a masterclass in literary mysteries. The Searcher was one of my most anticipated books of the year, and I’m so relieved that it has lived up to most of those expectations. Is it as good as her famous Dublin Murder Squad series? I mean, no, those books are on another level in my opinion. But this was a well-paced, suspenseful novel with a backdrop in a rural, small Irish town—something right up French’s alley.

So if you’re looking for a typical up-tempo thriller, you’re likely to be disappointed with this. The start is slow, but with something itching at the sides of your vision. Something you just can’t shake, but don’t know what it is. It’s a type of menacing that’s like the cold in Ardnakelty, Ireland—it sneaks up on you.

Cal Hooper is a former American detective from Chicago, Illinois. After putting in 25 years on the CPD and a difficult divorce, he decides to relocate to a rundown shack in Western Ireland and fix it up as a retirement project. It doesn’t take long for him to notice something amiss in this receding village, and his instincts won’t allow him to ignore it for long. I read in a couple of interviews with the author where she said this is her take on a Western, which I definitely see. It’s more rooted in a movie I hadn’t heard of before, The Searchers from 1956, but I did pick up on a True Grit vibe while reading. A kid comes seeking out Cal to help find justice for a missing brother, and he finds himself unable to refuse.

Cal definitely plays the part of ‘outsider cowboy who plays by his own rules’ well. These types of characters can be a hit or miss for me, but Cal is I guess, for lack of a better term, ‘one of the good ones’. If you’re wondering if he falls into that category during his time as a Chicago police officer, it’s never totally made clear. He probably thinks of himself as mostly good, and part of the reason he’s present in Ireland for the events of the book is because of his disillusionment with the department he worked for, but it’s not really relevant to the story. The acknowledgement of police corruption in the US, especially someone from the Chicago PD, felt cursory here. I think there was more of an opportunity to delve into this portion of Cal’s psyche, and it’s not like French hadn’t gone there before with her Dublin Murder officers. But for whatever reason, she backed off before getting into any meaningful commentary. There was just a quick acknowledgement and then moving on.

The Searcher has one major thing in common with her last standalone and a few from her series, which is a focus on men and how they interact with each other. Specifically, as an examination of how patriarchal structures negatively impact men and boys as well. Where The Witch Elm featured a main character so lost in his own privilege he couldn’t see things happening two inches in front of his face, The Searcher shows what happens when men who are ill-prepared for a changing world try to retain control of it. What they know is eroding due to time and circumstance and they are incapable of processing these changes.

If you’re the type of person who needs everything to come together neatly, you’ll probably find this book unsatisfying. There’s a rough edge to The Searcher, which I appreciate, but might not be for everyone. I for one would like to gently urge French to write more installments in the Dublin series, but I definitely won’t complain about having this one on the docket.
Profile Image for Pat.
2,310 reviews384 followers
September 16, 2020
That was what I would call a ‘quiet’ thriller. That does not mean cosy. It means something that can move you in a quiet and thoughtful way. The book is not fast paced but it was riveting nonetheless. Tana French’s writing is so lyrical, in this, more than any of her other books I’ve read, she brought Ireland to life for me. I felt as if I were there. And the lilting Irish speech was so wonderful to ‘hear’ (even though I read it, I heard it in my mind). I also felt the claustrophobia that Cal finally felt after moving from a large city to the small Irish Village of Ardnakelty.

Calvin John Hooper (Cal) retired from the Chicago Police Department after 25 years and a nasty divorce. He moved to small town Ireland for a complete change and a quiet life restoring the run down cottage he had bought on a few acres. He has interesting chats with his neighbour Mart, who tries to fix him up with a local widow, and enjoys a few evenings in the local watering hole. But while working on his cottage he gets the sense that he is being watched and finally the watcher reveals themselves - a teenager named Trey, skittish and fearful, clearly from a disadvantaged home and not very talkative makes his acquaintance. Cal puts Trey to work and doesn’t push things. After two weeks he is rewarded with the reason Trey is there. The brother, 19 year old Brendan has been missing for 6 months and Trey is desperate to know what happened to him.

Cal agrees to look into it - reluctantly and after a a great deal of deliberation. But his search, digging as it must under what goes on in the village, uncovers some ugly truths that he perhaps wishes were never unearthed. There is no unknowing what he learns and Cal must think long and hard about what he is going to do with this info. If you must have adrenalin in your books you probably won’t like this one. But if you like the odd quiet but deep and personal journey with beautiful writing and vividly drawn characters with warts and all you will love this latest offering by Tana French. Many thanks to Netgalley, the publisher and Tana French for my copy. My opinions are my own.
Profile Image for Nadia.
263 reviews175 followers
August 10, 2020
The Searcher is the latest book by Tana French set in a remote Irish village. An ex-cop Cal Hooper moves to the Irish countryside after a divorce and a retirement from the police force in Chicago as he seeks a lifestyle change. Cal suspects that someone is watching him and soon enough he discovers he is being followed by a 13 year old local boy, Trey. Trey is an outcast amongst his peers and his only friend, his brother Brendan, disappeared a few months ago. Trey knows Brendan would never leave without saying goodbye and wants Cal to help him find out what happened to his missing brother.

Similarly to The Wych Elm, The Searcher is a slowburn mystery suited mainly for patient readers who appreciate well-written books with drawn out characters and clever plotting rather than books with rapid twists and turns. Tana French has done a fantastic job in depicting the atmosphere and mentality of the local community where everyone knows everyone else's business. 

I savoured this book which reminded me that I should read more books from the author. 

Many thanks to the publisher for my review copy in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Carolyn.
2,092 reviews588 followers
October 12, 2020
As with her popular Dublin Murder series, Tana French's new novel is set in Ireland, but instead of also being a suspenseful thriller, this stand alone is a more gentle, slow simmering, character driven mystery.

Cal Hooper is an ex Chicago cop who decided on making a new start in a small Irish village after his marriage ended just as he put in for early retirement. It's not clear why he chose Ireland rather than a rural area in the US where he could keep in touch better with the daughter he misses, but hungering for solitude and quiet he nevertheless purchased a run down cottage in Ireland and planned on spending his time fixing it up and getting to know the locals in the village pub. However, when a young teenager called Trey turns up at his place asking for help to find his missing brother Brendan, his cop instincts kick in and against his better judgement he agrees to help. Cal senses is wrong with the community but the taciturn locals are not talking to him making it hard for him to figure out what happened to Brendan.

The novel does move a very slow pace and takes quite a while to give us any hints of what Brendan may have been involved in. The characters are well crafted, that of Cal the burnt out cop looking to heal his soul and the thirteen year Trey, living with her impoverished single mother and yearning for Brendan, the only person who ever cared for her. As Cal gets to know Trey they develop a very strong bond as she is clearly smart and eager to learn from him. Then there are the bunch of local sheep farmers and oddbods to be found in the pub including Cal's neighbour Mart who has struck up a friendship with him and always seems to be one step ahead of him. The description of the village and a way of life that is in danger of dying out as the young leave for college and city jobs was also poignant and I also enjoyed the description of the rural landscape and the ruggedness of the mountains and bogs surrounding the village. However, the slow pace of the novel and lack of action driven narrative may not appeal to those are expecting a more suspenseful and action packed thriller from this author.

With thanks to Penguin and Netgalley for a digital copy to read
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