Tana French‘s linked mystery series has quickly made her one of the most interesting mystery authors of the decade. Her first novel, In the Woods (reviewed here), was a New York Times bestseller and won the 2007 Edgar Award for Best First Novel. The novel follows Rob Ryan, a detective trying to solve a murder of a young girl while simultaneously dealing with the memories it dredges up of a painful childhood trauma of his own. French followed that novel with The Likeness, another New York Times bestseller, which tells the story of Cassie Maddox, one of the beloved characters in In the Woods. Now French’s third novel, Faithful Place, focuses on undercover detective Frank Mackey, a character who first appeared in The Likeness. In this book, an old suitcase found in an abandoned building suddenly pulls Frank back to a childhood and a home that he desperately wants to leave behind. As Frank tries to solve the long-ago murder of his first love, he also discovers things about his past and his family that might change his life forever.
Here French offers up some insight into her linked novels and why she chooses to write this way, and also talks a little about the new novel and what’s in store for readers of the series.
Tara Laskowski: I really love how you take a different character to focus on in each of your books, rather than writing multiple novels about the same hero or heroine. Can you talk a little about why you choose to write this way, and how it works for you?
Tana French: I’m interested in writing about the huge turning points – those moments when you know that, whatever you choose, all the rest of your life will be shaped by that choice. The thing is, though, that most people’s lives don’t hold more than, say, two or three of those moments. So when I started to think about a second book, I realized I had three options. I could go with the usual series pattern, which follows one protagonist through the ups and downs of his or her life – but, while I love reading those series, the idea of writing one somehow felt anticlimactic. I could keep dumping my poor narrator into enormous, high-stakes, life-changing situations, which felt pretty strained and artificial. Or I could switch narrators. Switching narrators seemed to make the most sense.