Her first novel, entitled In the Woods, has actually been out and about for a few years now and was the recipient of the 2007 Edgar Award for Best First Novel. And what a fabulous novel it was: French introduced us to Dublin detectives Rob Ryan and Cassie Maddox, unlikely (yet most likable) partners who must dig deep into the past to solve a creepy modern day murder.
French's talent lies in characterization and dialog. Told from Detective Rob Ryan's point of view, Rob and Cassie leap off the pages with ease and it feels as if their world has come to life. Sophisticated dialog and tantalizing glimpses into each detective's past make it seem as if French has been doing this her whole life, rather than debuting with this novel. She writes with a fluidity that indicates maturity far beyond her years.
As the murder mystery deepens it becomes apparent that Detective Ryan's past is intricately entwined with the current case and the stakes are raised until the reader simply can not put the book down. Truly, we didn't shower for two days in order to finish this book.
Now here's where it gets interesting because A Reader's Respite is just going to flat out tell you the truth of the matter:
The ending just plain sucks.
Really, it's true. Questions are left unanswered, loose ends aren't tied up properly, and the reader is left wondering, "What the hell?".
So why on earth are we telling you to read a book whose ending stinks? Because the rest of the book simply excels above all other thrillers on the market. This book, believe it or not, is worth reading despite the ending, pure and simple.
The Likeness is French's follow-up novel, and it takes the interesting twist of picking up Rob and Cassie's story where In the Woods left off, only this time from Cassie's point of view. A new case pops up and this time, it's Cassie who must deal with demons from her past as she goes deep undercover at a local University.
With this novel you can literally see for yourself French's honing of her craft. Her strengths (again, characterization and dialog) become stronger and her weakness (plot) improves dramatically. She deftly weaves an intricate mystery that, once again, keeps the reader glued to the pages and this time she doesn't make the same mistake with the ending.
This book, of the two, will not leave you disappointed in the ending. And yet A Reader's Respite cannot, in good conscious, recommend that you read only this second novel as a stand alone. You must read the both of them in order to experience the joy of seeing a talented writer mature and progress until the end result is almost magical.
If you appreciate the craft of writing and enjoy seeing a master of it at work, do yourself a favor and pick up both of these novels. It really is a thing of beauty.
Hey Mr. FTC-Man....cash out of pocket, baby, cash out of pocket. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.