Tana French’s Murder Squad Series is Your Perfect Binge Read

When it was released in 2007 I read In the Woods, Tana French’s debut novel about a detective in Dublin whose new case may be connected to the disappearance of his childhood best friends decades earlier. It was a creepy and atmospheric crime novel with the perfect blend of psychological character study and procedural nuts-and-bolts cop thriller.

Since then, French has released a new book in the series every 2 years or so. While all the books involve murders in and around Dublin, the main character changes from book to book. Did you get attached to Rob Ryan, the melancholy narrator of In the Woods? Sorry, you won’t see him again. But this makes it very easy to pick up each new book without having to catch up on any of the others.

The 6th book in the series, The Trespasser, is out now. Like the previous French novels, I could not put it down. And when I was finished all I wanted was more Tana French so I re-read the entire series.

If you haven’t read any of the books, never fear. Now is the perfect time to start. If, like me, you read them as they came out, you’ll be surprised at how your perspective on them may have changed and how the characters move in and out of the books. To assist you I’ve created a quick guide.

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I wasn’t sure reading them in order of publication was the absolute best way. And since I’d already done that I thought I’d consider another approach. Sometimes the order is important (you must read In the Woods before The Likeness or nothing will make any sense) but sometimes it doesn’t, and it mostly has to do with how the characters move through the books. I believe I have found the optimal order for your Tana French binge read. Here is what I came up with:

  1. Broken Harbor
  2. Faithful Place
  3. The Secret Place
  4. The Trespasser 
  5. In the Woods
  6. The Likeness

This order is built to address a few concerns. First, many people find In the Woods off-putting. Either they really don’t like Rob (with good reason) or they hate the ending, which is not traditionally satisfying and leaves several questions unanswered. I have recommended it many times only to have people bail out and never return. The Likeness is the most similar in tone and has Cassie, the secondary character of ITW, as its main character, so the two work best together. You can throw them at the end. If you feel like it. Or you can quit feeling good about the ones you read already. If you enjoy them they make a nice cap to the series as the most atmospheric and lyrical.

Second, Broken Harbor is the most classic thriller of the bunch and a great way to start the series with a bang. Mick “Scorcher” Kennedy is a solid narrator and one of the most experienced detectives of all the novels. The victimized family that might have been stalked feels like something you could see in a movie or an episode of Law & Order. And there’s still a satisfying character-driven subplot with Scorcher’s sister that also has a real impact on the case (as they often do). Faithful Place and The Secret Place both have slower pacing because of several flashbacks, but Broken Harbor keeps the sad old stories to a minimum.

Third, this order  puts all 3 Stephen Moran books in a row. Moran is the center of The Secret Place but he has a very important but small role in Faithful Place that you probably forgot about completely two books later when he runs into Frank Mackey again. And while he seems like the most unimportant and nondescript of French’s characters, it’s that very fact that makes him a pivotal part of The Trespasser. It’s also crucial to read The Trespasser having Moran’s role in Faithful Place fresh in your mind. It matters. Without the re-read it’s easy to miss all the subtle hints French lays down along the way for someone who otherwise seemed rather boring.

I wish you much joy and happiness in your binge-read.

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