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The Hunter
(Review, Synopsis & Summary)

By Tana French



Book review and synopsis for The Hunter by Tana French, a story about a man of disrepute coming back into town with a get-rich-quick scheme in this tense narrative about revenge, old grudges, and familial bonds.

Synopsis

Trey is a teenager living in the small mountain town of Ardnakelty in Ireland with her mother and younger siblings. When her long-absent degenerate father Johnny shows up back in town, everyone knows it means trouble.

Johnny has a new get-rich-quick scheme, and he's trying to bring the whole town along for the ride. But other people have their own ideas, their own secrets and their own agendas. Cal Hooper is a retired Chicago police officer who has been teaching Trey carpentry. Lena is Cal's partner and someone who cares for Trey. They both want to protect her and keep her out of harm's way.

Meanwhile, Trey has her own ideas about what to do about her father and his schemes in this story about familial bonds and vengeance...

(The Full Plot Summary is also available, below)

Full Plot Summary

Ending & Explanations
See the Questions, Ending and Explanations
Chapter-by-Chapter Summary
See the Chapter-by-Chapter Summary of The Hunter
Quick Plot Summary

Two-paragraph summary: Trey's disreputable and long-absent father Johnny comes back to their small mountainside Irish town with a get-rich-quick-scheme. Cal is a retired police detective who has been caring for Trey in Johnny's absence and knows it means trouble. Johnny gets the townspeople to invest in trying to convince a rich Englishman that there's gold to be found here, but it soon becomes clear to Cal that there's no gold and that Johnny and the Englishman are in cahoots together to convince people to give them money for equity in this "mining company". Trey blames the townspeople for the death of her older brother Brendan a few years back, so she's willing to help in the scheme to defraud the townspeople.

When word gets around that there's no gold, the rich Englishman winds up dead and Trey finds the body. A detective comes poking around. Trey tells him that a group of the townspeople are involved, hoping that the people that killed Brendan will get justice in this way. However, Cal's partner Lena convinces Trey that her plan won't work and that the townspeople will point the finger at Cal (as an outsider) to avoid blame. Or if there's no evidence and Trey is the only one who was seen with the body, Cal will just confess to protect Trey. Trey decides to give up her revenge scheme when she understands the situation she's putting Cal in, and she instead points the finger at Johnny as the scapegoat instead. Trey's mother soon tells her in confidence that she was the one who killed the Englishman in order to prevent Trey from ruining her life by getting involved in this scheme. Trey and her mother come up with a plan to light their house and the surrounding area on fire to destroy any evidence of the murder, and Johnny skips town since he's the most likely suspect for the Englishman's murder.


In Chapters 1 - 8, Johnny Reddy returns to the small Irish mountainside town where the family he abandoned lives with a get-rich-quick scheme. A man he met recently, Cillian Rushborough, believes there's gold in those mountains because Cillian's grandmother is from the area and told him about it. Johnny intends to serve as a middleman to negotiate with the local residents to charge Rushborough to mine and pan for gold, taking a cut from either side. Everyone knows Johnny means trouble, but the prospect of riches draws in the townspeople anyway.

Cal Hooper is a retired Chicago police detective. He and his partner, Lena, have helped to care for Johnny's estranged daughter Trey in his absence. They worry about what Johnny's presence means for her and want to protect her. Cal gets involved in the scheme in order to keep an eye on things.

Meanwhile, Trey carries her own grudges against the town and her father. Her older brother Brendan left home a while after Johnny abandoned them, and Trey blames both Johnny and the townspeople for Brendan's death. She finds out that Johnny has talked a bunch of men into investing in some gold to salt the river with so Rushborough will think there's gold. She decides to record them doing it.

In Chapters 9 - 13, Trey takes the recording of the men planting gold in the river to Rushborough. She is hoping that he'll see it and decide to leave town, which will likely result in her father leaving as well. However, He sees it and immediately call Johnny to his place. Trey soon realizes that Rushborough knows there's no gold, and he's working with Johnny because Johnny owes him money. Rushborough makes it clear that he is a dangerous man, and he wants Trey to help them with their plan by pretending to find some gold as well. The point is to convince the men in town to invest more money into his "mining company" so they can steal their money. Trey agrees to help only because she hates the townspeople and blames them for Brendan's death.

Meanwhile, Cal's partner Lena confirms with an older town resident, Mrs. Duggan, that there's never been rumors of gold in these mountains until now and the story about Rushborough's grandmother is likely false. Cal and Lena figure out that Johnny and Rushborough are likely working together and that Johnny owes the guy money.

Rushborough pretends to fall for the scheme that there's gold here. Meanwhile, Trey also pretends to find some gold. But still, word starts to get around that perhaps there is no gold. Threats are made against Johnny and Trey that things could get ugly if things don't pan out. Trey and Cal both want the other person to stay out of this messy business.

In Chapters 14 - 21, Rushborough soon turns up dead. Trey finds the body and tells Cal, who alerts the authorities. When Trey is questioned by Detective Nealon, Cal can tell from her answers that she fully intends to direct the detective towards suspecting her neighbors, who she blames for her brother's death. Trey tells Nealon that she heard a group of men with local accents out on the mountainside near where the body was found that night.

Nealon soon establishes that Rushborough's real name is Terrence Blake. And that he died between midnight and 2AM. No one mentions anything about the gold scheme to him.

Once Nealon starts questioning people, Lena is worried that because Cal is an outsider, the other men might serve him up as a sacrificial lamb. Lena decides to tell people that she and Cal are engaged in hopes they'll be less inclined to single him out without also throwing Lena under the bus too. Beyond that, Lena knows that Cal would rather implicate himself than let something happen to Trey, and Trey is the only person who is confirmed to have been on the mountainside that night.

Trey reluctantly gives up her revenge scheme when she understands the situation she's putting Cal in. She instead points the finger at Johnny as the scapegoat instead. Trey's mother soon tells her in confidence that she was the one who killed Rushborough in order to prevent Trey from ruining her life by getting involved in this scheme. She wants Trey to learn carpentry from Cal and opening a shop instead of wasting her life by making everyone hate her or worse by getting involved in this stuff.

Trey and her mother come up with a plan to light their house and the surrounding area on fire to destroy any evidence of the murder, and Johnny skips town since he's the most likely suspect for the Englishman's murder. The book ends with Trey going to stay with Cal.

For more detail, see the full Chapter-by-Chapter Summary.

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Book Review

The Hunter by Tana French is a taut crime novel about a smooth-talking, disreputable man, Johnny Reddy, who comes back into his small mountain town of Ardnakelty with big plans and a big idea to make himself and everyone else rich.

I’ve only read one of Tana French’s novels in the past, but I’ve been meaning to revisit her work for a while now. Tana French is known for her police procedural crime series, The Dublin Murders. The Hunter is the second book in her Cal Hooper series. It mostly functions as a standalone book, telling a full and completely story in and of itself, but there’s elements of the first book, The Searcher, that provides a lot of important context about the events of this second book.

Atmospheric and tense, The Hunter is set on the Irish mountainside. The story unfurls slowly but steadily as Johnny tries to rope in the town on his grand plans. Cal Hooper, a retired police officer, and Lena, his partner, have cared for Johnny’s daughter Trey in his absence and they worry about how he and his plans will impact her. But Trey has ideas and secrets of her own.

The novel feels taut and carefully considered, with French doling out information at a measured pace. As the events unfold, it’s clear that things between these characters with their cross-purposes and secrets will come to ahead in a dramatic way, but it’s hard to guess at exactly how, which is I suppose what makes things interesting.

The story takes a few turns that I wasn’t expecting which I appreciated. I sometimes struggle with “slow burn”-type stories, but I found that The Hunter managed to keep my interest even if there were a few parts where I started to get a little impatient.

Read it or Skip it?

The Hunter is a slow but steady burn, moody and tense while really capturing the atmosphere of the Irish mountainside. It’s the type of book I have to be in the right mood for, but I’ve been in a bit of a mood anyway lately, so this hit the right note for me. It thought it was a solid crime novel.

If I’m being honest, I’m not sure how memorable I found this book. I find myself mulling over the decisions the characters made, but it’s hard to say if this is a book that will stick with me or not. But either way, I think it does what it sets out to do, and it does it well, and I think for plenty of people that’s enough.

I’d say that if it interests you and this sounds up your alley, you’ll probably like it. I wouldn’t put this on a must-read list, but easily on a recommended books for 2024 list.

See The Hunter on Amazon.

The Hunter Audiobook Review

Narrator: Roger Clark
Length: 16 hours 23 minutes

The narrator sounds a lot like Kelsey Grammar (the guy who plays Fraiser). I thought the audiobook was fine, the voice guy wasn’t to my taste but nothing objectively wrong with it. I’d recommend listening to the sample before committing to it .

Hear a sample of The Hunter audiobook on Libro.fm.

Discussion Questions

  1. Why do you think Cal cares so much about Trey?
  2. Did you find Trey to by a sympathetic character? Did you identify with her? Why or why not?
  3. What do you think about Johnny’s last words to Cal that he really did want to give his family everything and that he never had a chance in life?
  4. What do you think about Trey’s decision in the end to give up her revenge?
  5. Why do you think Sheila made the choice that she made? Would you have made the same choice?
  6. What do you think the men would have done if Johnny hadn’t left because of the fire?
  7. What do you think happens to Trey after the book concludes? Do you think she ends up getting her “chance”?

Ending & Explanations

See the Questions, Ending & Explanations for The Hunter

Book Excerpt

Read the first pages of The Hunter



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