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by Tana French
Viking, March 2024
467 pages
ISBN: 0593493435

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

If your tastes in a mystery runs towards non-stop pounding action with a completely unexpected twist thrown in, THE HUNTER is not your book. If however, you prefer a beautifully written, character driven, nuanced, atmospheric mystery that does not skimp on plot, I can't recommend THE HUNTER strongly enough.

This is the second in the Cal Hooper series and, although both it and the first, THE SEARCHER, can be read as a standalone, they benefit from being read in order. This one starts a couple of years after the first ended and, this time around, Cal's protégé Trey Reddy's up-to-no-good father, Johnny, has returned to town with a scheme. He brings with him an Englishman claiming an Irish heritage who plays a major role in Johnny's get-rich-quick scheme. Trey gets caught up in the scheme, in large part because she has her own agenda. Cal gets caught up in it as well, mainly in an attempt to protect Trey. As the townspeople are whipped into a frenzy by the scheme and its consequences, a murder occurs and both Trey and Cal are endangered.

Throughout the book, the skill with which French builds the complicated characters of Trey, Cal, Johnny, and the townspeople surrounding and impacting them, makes each one of them feel entirely real. The book extends well beyond a psychological mystery to become more of a sociological one, as the way that information is valued and moves between its members in the village of Ardnaktley plays a major role in the plot. With varying skill levels, the main characters attempt to manipulate the townspeople first, and then the detective dealing with the murder, by channeling the information flow in one direction or another. This is a fascinating approach not often seen in mysteries, but highly effective in plot development. Action follows information, and that action leads us to a dramatic conclusion.

French also writes beautifully about the environment in which the action takes place. A fire is evocatively described: "The sound of it reaches them very faintly and gentled, like the shell-echo of a faraway ocean." The writing sometimes begs for a re-reading to savor its beauty. This can slow the pace of the book, but in a very good way. I am enraptured by the world that French has created in Ardnakelty and by the characters she has placed there. I cannot wait for book number three in the series!

§ Sharon Mensing, retired educational leader, lives, reads, and enjoys the outdoors in Arizona.

Reviewed by Sharon Mensing, May 2024

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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