Repost and a new review: My RomCom with Coffee and Tana French’s The Secret Place and The Dublin Murder Squad

Repost in honor or National Coffee Day

(but with a new book review)

Coffeeimages. This rich, intense essence of life;  the bold, earthy goodness that makes mornings more bearable. A whiff of the stuff can help my eyes open, get me out of bed a little faster.

But this wasn’t always the case.

I worked at Starbucks at the end of college and during the first couple of years of my marriage, and I loved it. I loved the smell of the place, the warm, enveloping dark, leathery feel of stores. But, and this is the weird part, I didn’t really drink coffee when I worked there.

Weird, right? I drank chais and teas and mistos (tea with steamed milk), and, every once and awhile, a frappucino. What was the strangest thing was that I could take a sip of coffee and tell you which beans they were–I had a great pallet for different coffee. But I never sat down and had a whole cup of coffee just to have a cup of coffee.

So, coffee and I were friends. Friends with benefits.  I got the taste factor, but I didn’t get the sitting and sinking into a cup of coffee thing. For years, we stayed in touch. Sometimes we would hook up with some Bailey’s (holidays), or at a friend’s house (as not to be rude). But it was a friendly nod from across the room. I understood the taste, and the caffeine stuff is obvious. But I was afraid of the intense love that was hiding behind the cute coffee mug.

Through early days of motherhood, through jobs that forced me out of bed in the morning, I stayed away from what I knew would be a darkly obsessive relationship with coffee. I spied it through the Starbucks drive-through, I even tasted its sweet loving embrace. But I wouldn’t let it have a real hold on my heart.

And then, Keurig. We bought one, and I decided it was time to have a cup here and there. I let it in. I fell in love. Slowly at first, and then all at once.

Pretty quickly one K-Cup at a time wasn’t enough. I was up to two in my mug in the morning, and sometimes another a little later. I couldn’t get enough. And that’s where I am now.

I’m fully immersed in this love story now. Every morning now, coffee has me at Hello. So much so, that I’m leaving my Keurig and jumping into the French press. We’ve had one for awhile, but we have no kettle to warm the water (and doing it in a saucepan has led to spills of hot water). Today, my electric kettle will be delivered.

Watch out world, no one can stop this endless love. It’s me and coffee forever.

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I love a good mystery, especially an English mystery. Elizabeth George, Kate Atkinson, Louise Penny. Somehow it’s a little different, a little more substantial, than an American mystery. Probably not really, but it seems that way somehow.

But my favorite right now is Tana French and her Dublin Murder Squad mysteries. Actually, they’re more like suspense novels. French has a way of painting a scene with her prose. That’s everything to me.

French’s Dublin Murder Squad is interesting in that it isn’t about one detective, or even a partners. Detectives weave in and out of the books, but each book stars a different detective, or a different set of detectives. There is no one star in these books, which is refreshing and gives the reader new minds to discover.

I read the first of the series, In the Woods a few years ago. Actually, I listened to it, which was perfect. Irish brogues are so wonderful. I fell in love with Rob Ryan and Cassie Maddox, and I wanted more from them. So I read or listened (I can’t remember which) to The Likeness, a mystery starring Cassie Maddox and introduces Frank Mackey. The next book, Faithful Place, takes the reader into Frank Mackey’s history and his devious mind. The fourth book, Broken Harbor, stars Mick “Scorcher” Kennedy, a minor character from an early book.

French’s latest book, The Secret Place, brings forth another minor character, Stephen Moran, who is technically not part of the murder squad, but it is his dream. He gets handed his chance from Holly Mackey, Frank Mackey’s bright daughter. Stephen and she had rapport during Faithful Place. A murder at her exclusive girl’s boarding school, St. Kilda’s, the year before remains unsolved, and Holly discovers a clue, which she brings to Stephen. He dutifully and duplicitously brings the clue to the prickly lead detective, Antoinette Conway, who takes Stephen along to the school.

The mystery unravels slowly and lyrically, French’s beautiful, descriptive prose creating a wonderful picture. Frank Mackey and his ‘three-steps ahead’ mind shows up, and Holly proves that she inherited her father’s brilliant mind. The mystery is brilliant and grand (two words that I wish didn’t sound ridiculous in my American voice), and kept me guessing until the killer was revealed.

French does a wonderful job highlighting teenage friendship, something that seemed so all-encompassing and important at the time, but gets lost when college and life comes along.

This quote, this example, hit me hard. It reminded me of what it was like to be a teen, and what my daughter is starting to go through at 11:

 “Be scared, you have to be scared, ordering like this is your one absolute duty. Be scared you’re fat, be scared your boobs are too big and be scared they’re too small. Be scared to walk anywhere on your own, specially anywhere quiet enough where you can hear yourself think. Be scared of wearing the wrong stuff, saying the wrong thing, having a stupid laugh, being uncool. Be scared of guys not fancying you; be scared of guys, they’re animals, rabid, can’t stop themselves. Be scared of girls, they’re all vicious, they’ll cut you down before you can cut them. Be scared of strangers. Be scared you won’t do well enough in your exams, be scared of getting into trouble. Be scared terrified petrified that everything you are is every kind of wrong. Good girl.”

French writes a mean mystery, but also gets the human mind in all shapes and forms. She paints a beautiful scene and delves into a mind wonderfully.

If you haven’t read any of the Dublin Murder Squad, go for it. Tana French is a wonderful, lyrical writer with a greatly devious mind. A great combination.


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