Both Tana French and Josephine Tey have books that are among my favorites as well as books I can’t slog my way through (confession: I can’t read Tey’s The Singing Sands). I love Tana French’s Broken Harbor so much it’s one of my favorite contemporary mysteries; but there are other times when her books are a tad too long and a tad too over determined. This is one of those times.
French’s prose skills are among the most beautiful of all contemporary mystery writers. She catches an atmosphere, she has an ability to make you feel a place in your bones, like no other writer. That’s no small skill, and in her new book the place she is out to capture is a Catholic girl’s school in Ireland. French has always been interested in the otherworldly nature of the woods, or the forest, the ones that you might encounter in a fairy tale. The woods in fairy tales may hold enchantment or danger; in this novel, the woods surround the school and supply both elements.