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"The Hunters" | Reviewed by Pat Sainz

“The Hunter,” by Tana French, is a thriller set in the remote village of Ardnakelty, off Ireland’s west coast. Although a murder occurs, it’s the provincial small town with its secretive cast of characters that contribute to the satisfying mood and pace of the novel.

            Arknakelty is surrounded by mountains populated with a smattering of mountain people and theories that ghosts still roam the forests. The narrow dark paths that wind through the mountains and connect obscure villages add to the sinister tales of the woodlands. Dead bodies can easily be lost in ravines and brush populated with carrion-eaters.

            When Cal Hooper retires in the small Irish town, he knows he will always be an outsider worthy of suspicion. The fact that he is a retired Chicago policeman reinforces the villagers' wariness towards him. Cal has chosen the out-of-the-way village to live in for the last half of his life, based solely on its beauty and stillness. 

            Cal has become a close friend to Lena, a widow who lives near him. They are like-minded and share a comfortable romantic connection. Both have become close to 15-year-old Theresa, known as Trey, whose dysfunctional family lives up the road from Cal. Cal’s place has become a refuge for her. She is a talented assistant in Cal’s carpentry business.

            When Trey’s father Johnny returns from London after a 4-year absence, he brings danger and disquiet to the town with his plans to participate in a venture with a glad-handing foreign business partner. Johnny’s plans include convincing the farmers that there is gold in the mountains which has seeped onto their land. He and his partner have offered the farmers a chance to invest in a plan to remove the gold from the land. 

            The offer seems like a good one; a drought and soaring heat have likely ruined the summer crops, something the farmers can financially ill afford. Johnny, known to the farmers since he was a baby, uses all of his charm to convince his old friends that the plan cannot fail, especially if they agree to a scheme to fool the investor. 

            A murder happens, rumors flood through the gossip chain, and old grievances are brought to the surface. The ending is a surprise and suspicious characters are offered some redemption.

            The setting is idyllic, but the novel is mostly character driven with the plot playing out through the conversations and dispositions of the townspeople. The reader is privy to some of Cal’s and Lena’s thoughts.

            The novel did not seem like a long book at its nearly 500 pages. I liked the juxtaposition of the drama with the slow pace of the story.

            “The Hunters” is the second in a series about Cal Hooper, the retired Chicago policeman. “The Reachers,” the first book, is set in the same town with the same cast of characters.

            Tana French is the well-known crime novelist of “In the Wood'' and “The Witch Elm.” She also writes the Dublin Murder Squad series.

            Buy the Book.





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