Friday, October 22, 2021

The Sum of Many Parts

Irish novelist Tana French returns with another nuanced installment of her Dublin Murder Squad series

Written by Anushree Majumdar |
January 7, 2017 12:57:38 am
 The Trespasser, Tana French, The Trespasser-Tana French, Dublin Murder squad series, French, Indian Express In The Trespasser, French writes with what can sometimes be an excruciating amount of detail about Conway’s experience of the squad

Book Name- The Trespasser

Author- Tana French

Publisher- Hodder & Stoughton

Pages- 480

Price- Rs. 1, 271.12

In a recent interview, Irish novelist Tana French said, “I’ve never been much for the artificial divide between ‘literary’ fiction and ‘genre’ fiction. I’ve never seen why audiences should be expected to be satisfied with either gripping plots or good writing. Why shouldn’t they be offered both at once?” So, that’s what she does. With her Dublin Murder Squad series, French has demonstrated why she is one of the most exciting writers in the world, never mind the genre. And it doesn’t get more nuanced, more mature than The Trespasser, the sixth installment of the series.

Antoinette Conway returns with her partner Stephen Moran, after their outing in The Secret Place (2014), to investigate the suspicious death of a young woman in her apartment. This should have an open-and-shut case — they’ve got a suspect, they’ve got something like a motive, but still, the solve just won’t happen. A lot of the unease has to do with Conway’s mistrust of everyone and everything around her. The Murder squad is a nasty place of work — sexism and misogyny are rampant; hazing includes having your locker covered in urine, witness statements disappear into thin air — and there’s not a thing to be done about it.

As it is with French, there’s always two parts to the novel — there’s the plot, the timeline of events that must be mapped out to catch the murderer. And then, there’s the larger story; these are two distinct elements at work. In The Trespasser, French writes with what can sometimes be an excruciating amount of detail about Conway’s experience of the squad, and her own background as a mixed-race woman in Dublin.

If Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl explored the construct of the “Cool Girl”, Conway is the next step — a woman who knows the multiple masks she has to wear, not just Cool Girl — because being a woman in a man’s world is the hardest full-time job anyone can have. “I do Warrior Woman, ready to rush out with her guns blazing and avenge all your wrongs, if you’ll just tell her what they are, and her flipside Stroppy Man-Hating Bitch when we want to piss off a rapist or a Neanderthal,” says Conway to the reader. But it is mainly Cool Girl that gets her places, gets the victim’s friend talking, but doesn’t seem to work on the squad.

Conway’s crisis is a larger commentary on gender roles at the workplace and how, no matter where she is, a woman in a position of power must watch her front, back, and sides, and, contort her sense of self and agency to an extent, any extent, really, so as not to upset or threaten the men around her. So, when a clue points straight at the force, Conway must find a way to the truth without wrecking everything she has ever worked for.

One of the more interesting aspects of The Trespasser, and what makes this such a delight to devour, is that, possibly for the second time since The Likeness, French has elevated the murder victim into something larger than the case. As the investigation proceeds, Aislinn Murray’s character unfolds and she almost becomes the second protagonist of the novel, whose actions have a far-reaching impact than she had originally planned for, and whose understanding of men, shallow as it may seem, was her greatest weapon.

If you’ve read French before, you know that all of this matters. Getting caught means somebody figured out the weakness in the plan, and put all the pieces together. And sometimes, it happens while we’re examining all the ways we are the sum of many parts, too.

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