HomeBlogTana French: Life, Books and Facts You Didn't Know

Tana French: Life, Books and Facts You Didn’t Know

Imagine an archeologist on a dig near a forest.

Suddenly, a thought crosses the archeologist’s mind: what if three children went into this wood to play, and what if only one returned… what if this kid grew up and became a detective… and what if…

As you might have guessed, the archeologist was Tana French, an American-Irish crime and mystery author. That’s how she came up with the idea that laid the foundation for her debut novel — a psychological mystery In The Woods.

There are many more interesting and little-known facts about Tana French in this article.

So, prepare to dig (pun intended) into her early life and education, careers, and her genre-expending writing.

Afterward, you can check whether you’ve read all Tana French books published until now and see what impact they produced on literary society.

At the end of the article, you’ll find the answers to the most frequently asked questions about this detective author. One of them: Is Tana French writing a new book right now?

Tana French’s Background

Early Years

Tana French, an award-winning author of mystery/crime fiction, was born in Burlington, VT, on the 10th of May 1973.

When she was two years old, the family left Vermont, as her father worked on renewable resources for developing countries and had to travel a lot.

For some time, they lived in Malawi and Italy, coming to Ireland for summers.

Education and Careers

In 1990, Tana French settled in Dublin, Ireland, and studied English and Drama at Trinity College Dublin.

She worked as a theater/film actress and voiceover.

However, her original career plan from the age of six was archeology. She tried to pursue it, but that one archeological dig near the wood changed everything.

It prompted a chain of what-ifs in her head.

“I thought I could probably write one scene, and then another scene, and then – oh my God, I’ve got a chapter!” – Tana French

That was when she realized she was serious enough about writing, so she turned down acting work offers and began her path as a crime author.

Writer’s Path And The Best Writing Advice She Received

The truth is that a “writer” budded in her from the very childhood. She wrote short stories and some “basic, really terrible” (according to her) poetry as a teenager.

In 2007, with the publication of In The Woods, she became a writer officially.

Since then, she’s been masterfully penetrating the realm of crimes and mysteries. Not without some help from a professional detective, of course.

Quite often, she has long talks with the detective on retirement (a very talkative guy, she says). He shares the peculiarities of investigations, relationships between detective partners, and the pace and techniques of crime solving.

For example, she called him to inquire about a specific interviewing tactic used by detectives for The Trespasser.

As for the writing part, the most valuable piece of advice, according to the author, was from her English teacher in Rome.

She said French needs to “cut some of those adjectives.”

Did she listen to her teacher?

Well, you can see that yourself by reading one of her stories.

Tana French Books

Below are all of Tana French’s novels listed chronologically:

  • In The Woods (2007)
  • The Likeness (2008)
  • Faithful Place (2010)
  • Broken Harbor (2012)
  • The Secret Place (2014)
  • The Trespasser (2016)
  • The Witch Elm (2018)
  • The Searcher (2020)

The last two, The Witch Elm and The Searcher are standalone novels. Although the first six belong to the Dublin Murder Squad series, they can be read as standalone as well.

Tana French’s Awards and Contributions to the Literary World

Here’s a full breakdown of the author’s awards and nominations.

In The Woods

  • Barry Award for Best First Novel (won)
  • Anthony Award for Best First Novel (won)
  • Edgar Award for Best First Novel (won)
  • Macavity Award for Best First Mystery Novel (won)
  • IVCA Clarion Awards for Best Fiction (won)

Faithful Place

  • Edgar Award for Best Novel (nominated)
  • Macavity Award for Best Mystery Novel (nominated)
  • International Dublin Literary Award (nominated)
  • Anthony Award for Best Mystery Novel (nominated)
  • Irish Book Awards for Best Mystery Novel (finalist)

Broken Harbor

  • Irish Book Awards for Crime Fiction Book of the Year (won)
  • LA Times Book Prize for Best Mystery/Thriller (won)
  • Goodreads Choice Award for Best Mystery & Thriller (nominated)

The Secret Place

  • Irish Book Awards for Crime Fiction Book of the Year (nominated)
  • Goodreads Choice Award for Best Mystery & Thriller (nominated)

The Trespasser

  • CWA Dagger Awards for Gold Dagger (nominated)
  • Goodreads Choice Award for Best Mystery & Thriller (nominated)
  • Irish Book Awards for Crime Fiction Book of the Year (won)

The Witch Elm

  • Goodreads Choice Award for Best Mystery & Thriller (nominated)

The Searcher

  • Goodreads Choice Award for Best Mystery & Thriller (nominated)

Each of Tana French novels got to the NYT bestsellers list. She proudly stands beside such “modern mystery mavens” as Gillian Flynn, Carol Goodman, Kate Atkinson, and others.

Check similar authors to Tana French here on our list.

Hillary Kelly, critic and essayist, mentions in her essay: “Tana French is our best living mystery writer.”

She is deservedly called the First Lady of Irish crime and is often compared to Agatha Christie and Patricia Cornwell.

Tana French’s Writing Style

Once you open one of Tana French’s novels, you’ll instantly feel the highly expressive and persuasive impact her writing produces from the first page.

Use of Imagery and Setting Details

Tana French masterfully uses figurative speech like idioms, metaphors, and similes to evoke the most powerful sensory experiences.

She helps you picture a scene so vividly that you can’t but smell odors or see characters moving around you. She also creates atmospheric tension, suspense, and anticipation of the consequences of each action.

The author does deliberate and detailed work with her stories, turning them into fully-fetched visualizations with almost tangible elements.

She slices the Irish life into small pieces and serves them in delicious-looking portions.

Let’s take The Searcher.

A small Irish village, geographically and culturally so distant from the center of power, with a cohesive society and its own rules enforced in it.

And then, an outsider comes in, and everything starts changing. Unlike in other stories, however, Tana French transposes the Western trope to the West of Ireland.

In fact, she often contrasts the economically booming Ireland of today with its shabby past and humble beginnings of a country.

Live Dialogues

You can imagine her dialogues actually being spoken. For example, the skillful interrogations in The Secret Place.

Tana French’s acting skills literally help her create such live and vivid dialogues.

Whenever she writes a line in a conversation, she goes through it and “plays” it.

If it feels like it would be easy to say for her as an actress and it would roll off the tongue, then she must have hit the right note.

Complex Character Development

As Stephen King pointed out in his review of The Witch Elm,

“To read a French novel […] is to enter an O.C.D. world where madness seems very close.”

Referring to an obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), Stephen King means the hormones-driven craziness of the teenagers in The Secret Place or Pat’s convictions concerning the house walls and the “animal” in Broken Harbor.

Indeed, Tana French tears open the grave of complexities buried deep in human nature. She emphasizes that dangers come from the inside, not from the outside.

“Everything that stops us being animals is eroding, washing away like sand, going and gone.” – Tana French, Broken Harbor

Her main characters are haunted by their past traumas. All of them develop broodingly and reflectively. It’s mainly traceable in The Searcher.

Out of all eight stories by Tana French, it has got the most deliberate, take-your-time character development.

The character of Cal Hooper is establishing and crystalizing slowly and deeply, inch by inch, through the web of strings that are pulling him in various directions.

Unique Storytelling Style

In her novels, Tana French often taps into the past and resurrects the backstories to figure out the crime details.

Her detectives peel back the layers to understand what could have brought things to this point.

However, the cases are designed in such a manner as if to reveal the detectives’ identities, their deep-held secrets, or troubled pasts.

The search for the murderer intertwines with the search for one’s self.

Solving a case with Tana French is exploring the nature of a human being and the socio-cultural aspects laminated in the killing: family, friendship, community, etc.

Switching Perspectives

In the six books from the Dublin Murder Squad series, you have got six different detectives, each of a peculiar type.

After In The Woods, the first book in the series, Tana French decided to switch perspectives and give her secondary character a front-row seat.

And so, we see Cassie Maddox, a partner detective from In The Woods, as the main investigator in The Likeness.

Then, the path of Frank Mackey, Cassie Maddox’s boss, is mapped out for us in Faithful Place.

In one of the interviews, French confesses that it felt a little uncomfortable to write from the viewpoint of a detective all the time and abandon other perspectives (of witnesses or suspects, for instance).

That’s why she stepped aside from the Dublin Murder Squad and wrote The Witch Elm with the character who is a victim, suspect, witness, and perpetrator simultaneously and who also tries to be a detective for a bit.

In The Searcher, an ex-detective wants to move away from his job but still gets sucked back into some elements of it.

Talking about her next novels, Tana French leaves a possibility that she will be giving a voice to other people involved in the whole investigatory process.

Top 3 Little-Known Facts About Tana French

Fact #1. The story that had the most significant impact on Tana French in her childhood was The Wind in the Willows, a children’s novel by Kenneth Grahame.

Fact #2. On one of the archeological digs, she did find the 16th-century coin that appears in her novel In the Woods.

Fact #3. Tana French’s husband helps her polish structures and plots in her novels by reading her narratives and giving his professional advice.

FAQs About Tana French

What is Tana French’s full name?

Her full name is Tana Elizabeth French.

How old is Tana French?

As of today, Tana French is 49 years old. She is celebrating her 50-year jubilee in May, 2023.

What is Tana French’s ethnicity?

The writer has American, Irish, and Italian family roots.

Who are Tana French’s parents?

Mother – Elena Hvostoff-Lombardi, a housewife
Father – David French, an economist for resource management

What genre is Tana French?

The author works with the “whodunit” subgenre of crime stories. However, she’s more like an acrobat on a tightrope, gracefully balancing between the genres: of psychological thriller, crime/detective, and mystery.

Why is Tana French so good?

Each story has its own psychological depth and intricate plotting. It would grab you and wouldn’t let you go until… sunrise.

Are all Tana French’s protagonists Irish?

No. In The Searcher, the protagonist is an American detective. All other novels have Irish protagonists.

What books influenced Tana French as a writer?

Apart from The Wind in the Willows mentioned above, she read It by Stephen King in her teens. She was impressed by the ability of kids to block their traumatic experiences and memories.

Where do I start with Tana French books?

Check this list of books by Tana French to choose the one you’d like to begin with. I’d recommend starting with In The Woods, one of the best mystery stories, and then moving on to the following novels to trace the dynamics she managed to create.

What movies are based on Tana French novels?

Dublin Murders (2019), a TV crime drama series of eight episodes, is an adaptation of Tana French novels: In The Woods and The Likeness.

Who is Tana French’s husband?

Anthony Breatnach – an actor and film director best known for The Monterrey Express (2018) and Cuts (2016).

Does Tana French have kids?

Yes. Tana French and Anthony Breatnach have two daughters.

Is Tana French still writing?

Tana French hasn’t announced finishing her writer’s career. So, most probably, she’s still writing.

Is Tana French writing a new book?

The chances are high that she may be writing a new novel.

In the 2021 PBS Books Author Talk, she was asked if she was planning to write some more detective stories. Her answer was:

“I don’t want to leave it. I think there’s definitely more to be said about the Dublin Murder Squad. I don’t have any ideas for it right at the moment, but I definitely wouldn’t rule out coming back to it.”

Can we expect the new Tana French book in 2023?

Currently, there’s no information about any upcoming books by Tana French. The latest release is The Searcher published in 2020.

Where can I find Tana French website and social media accounts?

The writer’s website is: tanafrench.com

Her social nickname is @TanaFrench. She’s registered on Facebook (over 49,000 followers) and Twitter (over 4,000 followers). On Twitter, however, she hasn’t posted a single tweet so far.

What is Tana French net worth?

As of 2023, her net worth is $5M.

Tana French is a great mystery & crime author and we hope you’ve found what you’ve been looking for in this article.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Also Read