The term detective fiction is made of two words: detective + fiction. However, more often than not, the focus of such books lies on the first part, i.e. the mighty detective. Well, not always. In Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad series, the focus tilts towards the fiction part and that isn’t even the best part!
In this series of six books, the supporting character of the previous one becomes the lead detective in the next. What’s more? In accordance with the signs of a good thriller, the crisp storytelling makes the final reveals much less important as compared to most such books.
I cannot even begin to sum up the way in which psychology of characters has been dealt with. The author is a trained theatre actress, so her knack for multi-dimensional characters is a treat. You can almost place yourself in the shoes of each character and understand their points of view, a couple of times even for the murderers. Add to that her lifelike narration which sometimes leaves some subplot unresolved and you can see that not every single mystery gets solved. It’s a bold approach, specially when you are writing a mystery book, and you are going to sob for some characters but you are going to keep reading anyway.
When an author narrates a story, they are effectively the Gods of that universe. The next set of people who get the whiff of life in that fictional world are the characters. This is exactly where this series differ. Let me give you an example.
One book has an undercover detective whose quick wit and smarts coupled with his sarcastic quips on people make him stand out. He mentions once or twice that he cannot reveal he is an undercover to anyone, not even his family, and has to say that he has a desk job. Moving on a couple books ahead, you find his daughter exclaiming to her friends how her dad drives her crazy about her safety:
‘Hello, he works in an office, most of the time. The worst thing he sees is forms. He’s just mental. The other week when he came to pick me up, you know the first thing he said? I come out and he’s looking up at the front of the school, and he goes, “Those windows aren’t alarmed. I could break in there in under thirty seconds.”
That’s where the scene ends in that chapter but not in the reader’s mind. It is one of the many examples where you feel in on the inside jokes and references with the author and isn’t she a delightful person to be friends with!
The crowning glory of these books is that reading them in a series isn’t a pre-requisite. You can read any of the six titles randomly and STILL get on with the plot, although I discourage that because you will miss out on the perks I mentioned above.
All in all, these books are a great example of mixing bold new ideas with the traditional fiction forms. If you are a fan of detective fiction, these books are for you. I can almost hear this one character from the series exclaiming to my review:
“No shit, Sherlock!”