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The joy of reading some mysteries comes from the lightly absurd: outrageous twists, ghastly violence, theatrical characters. Tana French’s hard-boiled novels offer a wholly different kind of pleasure: the uncomfortable titillation of realism. American-born, Dublin-based French has made literary art of the gritty police procedural and populates her books with people who say things like, “the squealing little arse-gerbil” and “I filed him in my mental database under Useless Prick, for future reference.” Most of her books are about detectives in the fictional Dublin Murder Squad. Her 2010 novel Faithful Place—the source of both of those quotes—follows detective Frank Mackey as he investigates the case of his childhood sweetheart, who disappeared decades ago. Mackey’s personal connection to the mystery drags him toward unearthing long-buried secrets in his claustrophobic community and threatens to reveal the rotten core of a dysfunctional family. French has taken detours into other styles—in the standalone 2018 novel The Witch Elm, for example, she tells the story through a civilian instead of law enforcement—but her work shines most when she centers the detectives obsessing over a case, drinking bitter coffee in their unglamorous stakeout cars. —Tessa Berenson Rogers

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