Book Review: ‘The Hunter’ is a dark and lyrical tale of revenge, friendship and loyalty in collision

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Cal Hooper fled a failing marriage, quit his exhausting job with the Chicago Police Department, and settled down in Ardnakelty, a fictional village nestled in the mountains of western Ireland, hoping to find some peace.

But in Tana French’s “The Searcher” (2020), he discovered that Ardnakelty isn’t a welcoming place. It’s a rural community that’s suspicious of outsiders. Its residents are contemptuous of government authority and live by their own rules.

Cal knows he will never be one of them, but now, in “The Hunter,” we find that he’s at least tolerated, made a couple of friends, and even found love with a local woman. However, the new life he’s built for himself is threatened when Johnny Reddy suddenly returns to town.

Johnny, who’d abandoned his family years ago, is a con man whose gifts, the author tells us, includes “taking every word out of his own mouth as gospel.” Cal feels “the urge to pat him down,” but Cal’s life in Ardnakelty depends on minding his own business. So he tries to stay out of it, even when Johnny lures some of the villagers into a scheme to mine non-existent gold that supposedly washed down from the mountains.

Trey Reddy, a young girl Cal befriended in “The Searcher,” is Johnny’s daughter. She’s a teenager now, but still too young, Cal says, to be trusted with something as momentous as her future. Trey despises her father and wishes he’d never come back. She also hates the people of Ardnakelty, who she blames for the unsolved murder of her older brother in the earlier book. So she hatches her own scheme — one that will wreak havoc on both the villagers and her father.

When Cal gets wind of what she’s up to, he knows she is putting her life, and probably his, in danger. He also knows he probably can’t talk her out of it.

The result is a suspenseful tale of revenge, justice, friendship and loyalty in collision, and of a young girl who must decide which conflicting values matter most. The mood is dark, the tension is thick, and the stakes are high. And as usual, in a Tana French novel, the characters are well-drawn, the dialogue is superb, the settings are vivid, and the tight prose is often lyrical.

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Bruce DeSilva, winner of the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Award, is the author of the Mulligan crime novels including “The Dread Line.”

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AP book reviews: https://apnews.com/hub/book-reviews

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