With the publication of her debut novel, Tana French quickly and firmly asserted herself as a new voice in the genre of psychological suspense. In the Woods, a popular police procedural, has sold more than a million copies and won multiple awards. The Tana French books in order collects her debut along with her subsequent releases for the ultimate guide to her writing.
Who is Tana French?
Tana French was born in Burlington, Vermont but moved around a lot as a child due to her father’s job. She eventually settled in Dublin, Ireland, where she still lives with her family.
Before she became an author, she was an actress, having attended Trinity College Dublin for acting. While she didn’t start writing professionally until she was in her thirties, French has said that she used to write when she was younger. During a lull between acting jobs, while French was working on an archeological dig, French began to write her debut novel, In the Woods, based on her surroundings.
Is there an order to read Tana French books?
The publication order for Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad series is also the chronological order of the story. That makes it best to read the books in this order. However, this is not essential as each book follows a different detective solving a new crime.
Therefore, you can read them in whatever order you would like. It is recommended to read the books in publication order though so you can experience the world the way the author intended. As well, while the series focuses on a new detective in each novel, it will build upon the character development from the previous installments.
Tana French Books in Order of Publication
The Dublin Murder Squad
- In the Woods (2007)
- The Likeness (2008)
- Faithful Place (2010)
- Broken Harbor (2012)
- The Secret Place (2014)
- The Trespasser (2016)
What is considered to be Tana French’s best book?
Many consider In the Woods to reign supreme as her best book. Her debut novel inserted her within the genre as a new voice of psychological suspense. It is also the book for which she has won the most awards.
After In the Woods was published in 2007 it won some of the most highly sought after awards in the genre. In the Woods won an Edgar, Anthony, Macavity, and Barry Award in 2008.
In addition to being her most awarded book, it also remains the most popular with more than a million copies sold. Collectively her books have sold more than three million.
Is there a sequel to In the Woods by Tana French?
While her debut novel remains her most popular, it has also inspired multiple sequels. In the Woods was the beginning of her successful Dublin Murder Squad series.
There are now five sequels to In the Woods in the series, but the direct sequel is The Likeness. This is in both the order of publication and character connections.
However, while the order of publication is the way French intended to build the world and her characters, many do not recommend beginning with In the Woods and The Likeness. That’s because those books are considered to be her most ground-breaking pieces of literature.
I think beginning with an author’s debut novel is always the best reading order to follow. Especially so when it is the beginning of a series and even if the main character does shift from book-to-book.
Whether you want to begin with her most lauded novel or delay the gratification of her debut, The Likeness should be read as a direct sequel. That is because of all the books in the Dublin Murder Squad the first two books are the most closely interconnected.
The storyline of The Likeness and the protagonist’s journey will make the most sense with the context of her involvement in In the Woods.
Summary of Tana French Books in Order
Now that you know about all of the books Tana French has written, the awards she has won, and perhaps what order would be best for you to read her books in, let’s go through the summaries for each novel.
We’ve listed the first eight Tana French books in publication order here. This will place her Dublin Murder Squad series first, before finishing the list with her two standalone novels.
1. In The Woods
It is the summer of 1984. As darkness approaches a quiet Dublin neighborhood, mothers begin to call their children home. Three youngsters, however, do not return from the silent woods.
When the cops come, they discover just one of the kids. He is terrified, clutching a tree stump, wearing bloody sneakers, and unable to recall anything from the previous hours.
Twenty years have passed. Rob Ryan, the discovered youngster, is now a detective with the Dublin Murder Squad and keeps his background hidden. When a girl is found dead in the same woods, he and his colleague and best friend, Detective Cassie Maddox, start investigating a case that is frighteningly similar to the previous unsolved mystery.
Ryan now has the opportunity to unravel both the mystery of the case at hand and the mystery of his own dark background, with only bits of long-buried memories and glimpses of clues to guide him.
In the Woods is an incredibly believable and fascinating story, richly atmospheric and breathtaking in its depth.
“Ambitious and extraordinary first novel…rank it high.”The Washington Post
2. The Likeness
Still traumatised by her brush with a psychopath, Detective Cassie Maddox transfers out of the Murder squad and starts a relationship with fellow detective Sam O’Neill. When he calls her to the scene of his new case, she discovers that the murdered girl could be her doppelgänger. What’s more, her ID shows she is Lexie Madison – the identity Cassie used, years ago, as an undercover detective.
With no leads, no suspects and no clues to Lexie’s real identity, Frank Mackey, Cassie’s old boss, persuades her to mimic the deceased lady in order to tempt the killer out of hiding to finish the job.
Cassie’s imitation of the murder victim grows increasingly consuming her as the inquiry progresses. She builds strong bonds with the four housemates of the murdered girl, all of whom are suspects in the crime. Then the line between Cassie’s actual and covert lives begins to blur.
“Required reading for anyone who appreciates tough, unflinching intelligence and ingenious plotting.”The New York Times
3. Faithful Place
Back in 1985, Frank Mackey was nineteen, growing up poor in Dublin’s inner city and living crammed into a small flat with his family on Faithful Place. But he had his sights set on a lot more. He and his girl, Rosie Daly, were all set to run away to London together, get married, get good jobs, break away from factory work and poverty and their old lives.
But on the winter night when they were to leave, Rosie didn’t show. Frank took it for granted that she’d given him the brush-off. Probably because of his alcoholic father, nutcase mother, and generally dysfunctional family. He never went home again.
But neither did Rosie. Everyone thought she had gone to England on her own and was over there living a shiny new life. Then, twenty-two years later, Rosie’s suitcase shows up behind a fireplace in a derelict house on Faithful Place. Now Frank is going home whether he likes it or not.
Getting sucked in is a lot easier than getting out again. Frank finds himself straight back in the dark tangle of relationships he left behind.
The cops working the case want him out of the way, in case loyalty to his family and community makes him a liability. Faithful Place wants him out because he’s a detective now, and the Place has never liked cops. Frank just wants to find out what happened to Rosie Daly – and he’s willing to do whatever it takes, to himself or anyone else, to get the job done.
“An expertly rendered, gripping new novel”Janet Maslin, The New York Times
4. Broken Harbor
The Dublin Murder Squad’s leader Mick “Scorcher” Kennedy takes up the narrative. He follows the rules and works hard, which is how the year’s largest case winds up in his hands.
Patrick Spain and his two young children were assassinated in one of Ireland’s half-abandoned “luxury” complexes. Jenny, his wife, is in critical condition. Scorcher believes it will be a simple case to solve at first, but too many small details remain unexplained: the half-dozen baby monitors pointing to holes smashed in the walls, the files deleted from the family’s computer, Jenny’s story about a shadowy intruder slipping past the house’s locks.
To make matters worse, Scorcher looks to be experiencing problems at home, as the case appears to have reawakened memories of their childhood in Broken Harbor in his sister Dina. Scorcher is between a rock and a hard place as she has a nervous breakdown amid the pressure of the case. With everything around him collapsing, it looks like he will be fighting to hold it all together.
“Broken Harbor proves anew that Tana French is one of the most talented crime writers alive.”The Washington Post
5. The Secret Place
A kid was murdered at a female boarding school a year ago, and the murderer was never found. Detective Stephen Moran had been waiting for an opportunity to be part of Dublin’s Murder Squad when Holly Mackey, sixteen, walks into his office with a picture of the murdered boy with the phrase “I know who killed him.” Now it is his chance to prove that he is up to the task.
Moran returns to the site with colleague Detective Antoinette Conway in tow, ready to reopen the case. As they get to the bottom of the matter, they immerse themselves in the hidden underworld of these schoolgirls, uncovering the truth behind the falsehoods found within their clique.
Detective Frank Mackey, on the other hand, will go to any length to keep his daughter away from the unfolding events. Will they be able to solve the case by the deadline? Can kids tell the difference between fact and fiction? What will they do with the time they spent in ‘the secret place’?
“An absolutely mesmerizing read… Tana French is simply this: a truly great writer.”Gillian Flynn (bestselling author and journalist)
6. The Trespasser
Being a member of the Murder Squad is not what Detective Antoinette Conway expected. Stephen Moran, her partner, is the only one who appears to be happy she’s there. Most parts of her work consists of thankless cases, cruel jokes, and harassment. Antoinette is a ruthless fighter, but she’s getting close to the breaking point.
Their current case appears to be another by-the-numbers lovers’ feud gone wrong. Aislinn Murray is blond, attractive, and perfectly groomed, and she’s dead in her picture-perfect living room, next to a lovely dining table. There’s nothing unusual about this girl, but Conway knows she has seen her before.
Other detectives from the Murder Squad are pressuring Antoinette and Steve to arrest Aislinn’s lover as soon as possible. At the end of Antoinette’s road, there is a mysterious figure lurking. Aislinn’s buddy implies that she was aware that Aislinn was in danger. And the more they learn about Aislinn, the further she becomes from the glossy, passive doll she appeared to be.
Antoinette is aware that the harassment has made her paranoid, but she is unsure how far she has gone. Is this case just another step in the effort to get her kicked from the squad, or do darker currents run under the glossy surface?
“A tour de force… When you read Ms. French—and she has become required reading for anyone who appreciates tough, unflinching intelligence and ingenious plotting—make only one assumption: All of your initial assumptions are wrong.”Janet Maslin, The New York Times
7. The Witch Elm
Toby is a happy-go-lucky charmer who has avoided a scrape at work and is partying with pals when the night takes a turn for the worse. He surprises two burglars who beat him up and leave him for dead.
He seeks shelter in his family’s ancestral house to care for his dying uncle Hugo, struggling to heal from his injuries and realizing that he may never be the same man again. When a skull turns up in the trunk of an elm tree in the garden, Toby must confront the possibility that his history is not as he has always understood.
The Witch Elm is a captivating standalone from one of today’s finest thriller authors, and it examines what we become and what we’re capable of when we don’t know who we are.
“Extraordinary… Here’s a things-go-bad story Thomas Hardy could have written in his prime… The book is lifted by French’s nervy, almost obsessive prose… This is good work by a good writer. For the reader, what luck.”Stephen King
8. The Searcher
Cal Hooper imagined a quiet retirement in a picturesque Irish town as the ideal getaway he needed. He just wants to start a new life in a nice area with a good pub where nothing much occurs after twenty-five years of service with the Chicago Police Department, and a rough divorce.
But Cal finds layers of evil underlying his gorgeous getaway when a local youngster whose brother has gone missing arm-twists him into investigating, and he begins to learn that even tiny villages hide terrible secrets.
“This hushed suspense tale about thwarted dreams of escape may be her best one yet…its own kind of masterpiece.”Maureen Corrigan, The Washington Post