The Hunter by Tana French

It’s a heat-wave summer in the small West of Ireland village of Ardnakelty. Cal Hooper, who took early retirement from the Chicago police force and moved there looking for peace, has found it: he’s built a relationship with a local woman, Lena, and the two of them are gradually turning half-feral teenager Trey Reddy into a good kid going good places. But then Trey’s absent father comes home, bringing along an English millionaire and a scheme to find gold in the townland. His arrival threatens the delicate balance the three of them have built. Cal and Lena would do whatever it takes to protect Trey, but Trey doesn’t want protecting; she wants revenge.

The Hunter is basically mystery software running on Western hardware.I only discovered Westerns a few years ago, and one of the things that struck me was how much resonance there is between Western settings and the West of Ireland. There’s the wild beauty that demands both physical and mental toughness from anyone who wants to make a living from it; there’s the sense that the landscape shapes people’s lives, in very concrete, practical ways. And there’s that sense of a place removed from the centres of power, both geographically and culturally, so that the people feel like, if they want a functioning society, they need to make and enforce their own rules. I thought Western tropes might map really well onto a West of Ireland setting.

In my last book, The Searcher, I went with the classic Western trope of the stranger in town who sets changes in motion, whether he wants to or not. In The Hunter, I was thinking about the ‘gold in them thar hills’ trope, the theme of revenge that underpins so many Westerns, the idea of the adventurer who comes home bringing trouble along with him. They’re good matches for Ireland. Huge numbers of ancient gold artefacts have been found here, and there have been regular mini-gold rushes for centuries, so the idea of gold at the foot of the mountains isn’t actually unlikely. And the adventurer’s complicated homecoming fits right in with Ireland’s many stories of returning emigrants caught between the expectation of success and the harsher reality.

This is a book about families – both the ones we’re born with and the ones we make for ourselves – and what we’ll do for those families when they need us. It’s also a book about revenge, the different things that draw us towards revenge and the different ways we go after it. And it’s about what happens when those two things – family and revenge – collide, and one of them has to be sacrificed for the other.

You can now pre-order The Hunter by Tana French.

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