Tana French Overload

Tana French, Broken Harbour (2012)

Well, I’m done. I can’t take it any more. There’s only so much gloom and tragedy I can take.

Only so many flawed police inspectors with a personal tragic back story that gets somehow entangled with a current case.

Only so many untied loose ends in the plot that you feel that you haven’t finished reading long after you’ve turned the last page.

Even if it’s perfectly written, with an atmosphere and a setting that gives you goosebumps (or makes you want a stiff drink), some deep societal issues (economic crisis, corruption linked to the Irish economic bubble, unemployment) and deep personal stories (trying to keep up with the Joneses, wanting to be perfect at all costs, breakdown issues, suicide issues, betrayal issues, respecting the law vs. your own moral conscience).

Anything else? Oh yes, add children murders. And perhaps an evil monster or two hiding in your home.

I confess I may have skipped a few pages, or my eyes have glazed over one too many scenes of heartbreak. I have read 3 books by Tana French too quickly (here), there should be a medical warning like on the cigarettes pack: “Never read this book in larger amounts, or for longer than prescribed. Reading too much of this writer may cause serious or life-threatening side effects.”

I did wonder what was French’s point for all this misery (obviously, it sells well). Not that I criticize her skills as a writer, because, wow, I have to bow and respect that. Setting the crime in a decaying, half-finished housing estate whose crooked developers sold dreams before disappearing with the cash is a stroke of genius. The book is a police procedural, a whodunnit, but also a thriller and a horror story all in one. A very dangerous combination indeed. Once you’ve started you have to read it till the end, and she doesn’t spare you.

It’s not even schadenfreude, not even a way to punish the reader’s perverted wish to witness terrible things. My take is that she wants to uncover the possibility of anyone to act monstrously. And shove it in your face. But that’s not something I’m comfortable with right now (will I ever?). Sorry Ms. French, I don’t have the stomach for another Dublin murder squad mystery for quite some time I suspect.


10 thoughts on “Tana French Overload

  1. Ohhh-kay. Thank you for letting me know this is NOT the book for me right now. Susan Hill used to be similar, like she was punishing the reader for having ordinary expectations. You were in her books to suffer, and well, that’s not always something I am in the mood for. I do like a few good jokes too!

  2. Oh no! I read her first book several years ago and liked it very much but haven’t gotten to her other books yet. I think you are right that one does need a break between them! I hope you recover soon 🙂

  3. I’ve read each one as it was published, so perhaps I have had long enough gaps in between each one for this not to bother me. French is definitely one of my favourite writers and I always look forward to her next one in the series. I think you have a good point about overdosing on a writer though. If nothing else, after a time their style begins to feel tired just because you haven’t had a change.

  4. Ah, now! I think you’re being tough on Tana French. I think, sometimes, when we read a few books in a row by the same author, it’s very difficult to last the pace. You need a change of location and character before going back to a serial author.

    I like French’s book and, though I live in Ireland, actually prefer US crime novels. But hers are very readable and not bogged down in their Irish-ness (which is a very unpatriotic thing to say, but there you have it!)

    • Yes, I agree that her books are Irish without all the clichés about Irish literature. I’ll have some cheerful cosy mysteries before I even consider going back to her. I need a pause, not a definite farewell!

  5. Ah, yes, the overdose phenomenon! I find that happens even with my favourite authors (and I haven’t read Tana French yet, so cannot comment about her). You do need gaps and changes, otherwise it’s like eating too much foie gras or chocolate.

    • Yes, the comparison is very accurate with foie gras and chocolate (not to eat them together though)… I need to take it slowly to savour it, not gobble everything like a fast food meal!

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