Sunday Books & Culture

This week’s reviews include the complex relationships of Tana French’s “The Hunter” and Ron Corbett’s compelling crime novel “Cape Rage.”

THE HUNTER 

by Tana French

Published by Viking (March 5, 2024)
Hardcover $20.31
Audiobook $18.00

Reviewed by Penny A Parrish 

I can’t think of a better way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day than with a Guinness, a corned beef dinner, and a book by Tana French. That’s what I did. The writer was born in Vermont, but you’d never know it when reading her books set in Ireland. Obviously, she has spent many hours in local pubs there, getting to know the dialect, the traditions, the characters, and the land.  

The Hunter is the second book in a series, and I do heartily recommend reading the first one, The Searcher, before reading this book.

In the first, we meet Cal Hooper, a retired Chicago cop who bought a place in rural Ireland to find some peace in his life. He is, and always will be, an outsider in Ardnakelty. We also meet Trey, a child who is almost feral and who works with Cal refinishing old furniture. Lena is a neighbor and friend to both, a widow who takes care of herself and her land. Together they prove that a “family” can be created out of love rather than bloodlines. All three are featured in this second book.

The other main character is Ireland itself. It’s a hot, dry summer, and the local farmers worry about feeding their animals if the lack of rainfall causes them to lose their crops. They are tense and worried.

When Trey’s long-absent father Johnny returns to Ardnakelty, no one is particularly glad to see him. But he brings news: there is probably gold beneath the fields of the farmers.  His business partner’s grandmother came from that area, and she has passed on tales of veins of gold just waiting to be excavated.

Of course, it will take some buy-in money from the locals for the digging to begin. Johnny and his partner exert both charm and hope to locals who fear the relentless weather. The gossip mongers of this small town have a field day, turning neighbor against neighbor, wondering if the proverbial pot o’ gold at the end of the rainbow might really be in their backyard.  

To share more here would do readers a disservice. Let it suffice to say that I could not put this book down (nor the first one). The good thing about reading a book by Tana French is that the characters are so real and the plot is full of surprises. The bad thing is that her books end, and the characters and the haunting story just rattle around in your head for days or even weeks.  

I just read an interview with the author. She says that she now thinks this will be a trilogy. I can’t wait.

Penny A Parrish is a long-time book reviewer and artist. Learn more about her by visiting her page at Brush Strokes Gallery, which is in downtown Fredericksburg.

CAPE RAGE

By Ron Corbett

Published by Berkley (March 19, 2024)
Hardcover $21.99
Audiobook $14.40

Reviewed by David Arndt

The Danby mafia family has resided on a secure island off Washington state for several generations. Their crime syndicate has done a little of every illegal activity, from smuggling contraband up and down the coast, to robbing banks, and neutralizing external threats.

When a bank heist doesn’t go as planned, the feds and police pounce on this rare opportunity to bring them down. To do so, they bring in Danny Barrett, an undercover cop, to infiltrate the gang and discover the evidence they sorely need. Thus begins Ron Corbett’s Cape Rage.

Barrett, armed with a faux criminal background loosely linked to the Ambrose family, arrives in Washington prepared to discreetly research them. He explains how a close friend, now in police custody, tipped him off, advising the Ambroses are decent employers for those prepared to cross the criminal side of the line.

Everyone from the powerful head of the family down to the lowly chef seems ready to buy his story, yet all this planning is thrown to the wind when Barrett gets to know Tess Ambrose, daughter of the infamous kingpin.

He discovers in her an incredible, fiery spirit and a desire to rebel against her family’s criminal background. She charmingly recruits him in her plan to escape with enough riches to start a new life, leaving the protagonist torn between betraying her to the feds and helping her on her mission.

The novel also reveals the perspective of another character: Henry Carter. A team member of the bank heist, he was betrayed and shot by the Ambroses after they escaped from the city.

Left for dead, he miraculously survived being shot, and with the help of a reclusive local, he recovers from his wounds. When he’s strong enough to walk and talk, he proceeds on his new mission: vengeance against the family that betrayed him.

Cape Rage is a compelling crime novel about truth and lies, vengeance and betrayal.  The main characters come to see the world and their actions in intermediate shades of gray, where their motives and understanding become increasingly clouded as their stories unfold and become more complex.

This novel asks the reader what is right and what is wrong, and whether anything is as simple as it really seems.