French’s The Secret Place introduced Stephen Moran as its narrator, the young detective itching to get into Dublin’s Murder Squad, and paired temporarily with the tough Det. Antoinette Conway. He gets his wish months later, only as the youngest and unmarried members of the team, they both get more than their fair share of night shifts. And it’s Conway who’s the narrator as the now-partners are handed a new case to work together in The Trespasser, another strong novel that shows how well French understands human nature.
Their Superintendent is convinced he’s handing the newbies a simple domestic case, easily solved. Pretty, polished and dressed for a date: that’s the impression victim Aislin Murray gives the detectives when her body is found in a pool of blood in her flat, right next to a dining table set for two, complete with candles, uneaten meal in the warming oven.
It appears to be simple, a lover’s quarrel gone bad at first glance, except that Conway is convinced she’s seen the victim before and just can’t place her. Conflicting stories from people who knew Aislinn set off the detectives radar, and further investigation shows that the young woman underwent a remarkable makeover in her appearance and manner.
Rory Fallon has been dating Aislinn, and when he’s put under the glare of being a suspect, he doesn’t redeem himself well, yet Conway isn’t convinced he’s the killer. Not so DI Breslin, the experienced detective assigned to oversee the case with the duo. He presses them hard for an arrest of Fallon, stressing out Conway and getting to Moran. His insistence leads the two to all sorts of wild conspiracy theories that keep them from seeing the truth of the case that lies right in their midst.
Adding to Conway’s stress is the harassment she’s received from her coworkers, including pranks and messing about with her reports and evidence, which doesn’t seem to apply to her male partner. Is she paranoid or is this the height of sexism? And more to the point, can she wait it out or will she crumple and make her colleagues point for them?
This is a power struggle on all fronts, sometimes between Conway and the suspect; at others between Conway and the detective sitting next to her, whether it’s Moran or Breslin. And most of all, it’s a struggle for Conway between the person she is and her urban working-class origins, and the person she wants to be.
An accomplished look inside the psychology of the narrator, and of the far-reaching implications of actions not always understood. Highly recommended.