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‘The Searcher’ Excellent Storytelling with a Touch of Escapism

4.5 Stars

Cover art for "The Searcher."
Cover art for "The Searcher." By Courtesy of Penguin Publishing Group
By Mikel J. Davies, Crimson Staff Writer

Tana French’s “The Searcher” follows the story of a man who is very much normal and almost completely unremarkable. After living life in Chicago as a detective, he is ready to break out of the mold of American life and find some peace and quiet. His wife has left him and his daughter speaks to him only in bursts; he has nothing left in the states. So, he leaves. He packs up what little he has and finds a quaint rundown homestead in a podunk Irish township. Leaving his entire life behind, Cal Hooper searches for a respite after years of pain. What he finds is far more messy and convoluted than he could have imagined, in a town with barely a store and only dirt roads.

Through immaculate descriptions of the Irish countryside, French captivates the reader and pulls them into the tumultuous and exciting world of rural Ireland. We meet our protagonist walking onto his porch to see the brutality of the Irish countryside in full swing, as several rooks huddle together eating a little field rabbit. This quick scene introduces the reader to the harshness of the Irish landscape in rural Ardnakelty and to our main character, all the while foreshadowing what the remaining 450 pages have to offer.

Following a brief introduction to the location and characters, the reader is swept into the hidden mystery surrounding the disappearance of Brendan Reddy — a kid from the wrong side of town who vanished six months prior to the beginning of “The Searcher.” At the urging of Trey, sibling to the missing child, Cal tentatively embarks on what will become a paradigm shifting adventure in his not-so-quaint and cozy little town.

As French moves through the story, establishing the few and influential characters of the little township, Ardnakelty swiftly grows in the reader’s mind, as Noreen’s little shop, Sean Og’s pub, and the couple houses scattered about are introduced and developed.

The town is but one part of the whole picture established in “The Searcher.” “The sky, dappled in subtle gradations of gray, goes on forever; so do the fields, coded in shades of green by their different uses, divided up by sprawling hedges, dry-stone walls, and the odd narrow back road.” The concise descriptions of the landscape and events illuminate the progression of the story as clearly as watching it with one’s own eyes. French has an incredible ability to create clear, enthralling scenes in places many readers can’t imagine. The low Irish mountains surround the town on the horizon and act as a constant reminder to Cal and the reader of the weight and darkness that seems to seep into the story at every corner, the mystery only growing. The gentle greys of the sky and soft blues of morning sunsets quickly give way to the machinations of generations-old feuds and qualms.

What French creates — purposefully or not — is a world away from the chaos and mess of today. Cal Hooper and the rest of Ardnakelty have no shortage of problems and difficulties — sheep dying mysteriously and siblings disappearing, but these problems seem so tangible, so apparent and solvable with the help of the deus ex machina that is Cal Hooper. Tana French gives readers the potential to see a new, wonderful world in Ardnakelty while also escaping the struggles of the real world. There’s no pandemic in “The Searcher,” and what a relief it is to see and feel it if only for a couple hundred pages.

—Staff writer Mikel J. Davies can be reached at

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