By Chet Yarbrough
Written by: Tana French
Narrated by: Hilda Fay
Tana French shows that evidence is the fundamental proof of guilt or innocence. French’s “The Trespasser” offers a glimpse of what it must be like to be a woman in a man’s world. To be a female detective on a murder squad is a perfect venue for exploring the perfidy of men in power positions.
French’s story shows how power distorts the relationship between the sexes. In a culture that reinforces male dominance, women use the same tools as men to acquire power; however, with a substantive difference. Intellect, sex, and prejudice demean women while men reap reward and praise for the same qualities.
In modern times, the currency of society’s male domination is apparent in the trial of Bill Cosby. Regardless of the accuracy of Cosby’s only eligible accuser, 40 other women have independently accused him of sexual impropriety. Though testimony of these 40 women is not admissible as evidence, their testimony strongly smells of Cosby’s guilt. If guilty, Cosby represents the guilt of society. An innocent verdict is no absolution for Cosby but it is a measure of American society’s acceptance of a President’s locker room talk on a bus and behavior in a women’s dressing room.
French creates a mystery solved by Detective Antoinette Conway with the help of her partner, Stephen Moran. Conway presumes every male in her squad, and at one point even Moran, plot against her success. This presumption is reinforced by Conway’s experience as a police officer and detective. Her gathered prejudice against all men (or at least those in her squad) nearly derails her dogged search for the murderer of a young woman. French reveals how Conway overcomes her personal prejudice by accepting the truth that men and women are equally good and bad.
A father abandons his wife and daughter. The abandoned wife seeks answers to the whereabouts of her husband. The Missing-Persons’ department of the police is asked to investigate. The father is reported as having died, after living many years with another woman. The mother dies. The daughter is obsessed with the investigating officer of the Missing Persons’ department because of his ambiguous relationship with her mother. The daughter plans an elaborate ruse to meet the investigating officer and find out more about her father. The daughter becomes entangled in a web of relationships; i.e. the Missing-Persons’ officer (who is now the head of a murder department), a close female friend, and a possible new boyfriend. The daughter is murdered. Conway’s task is to find the murderer.
In French’s story, the search for suspects, and resolution of the case, are introduced to Conway’s investigation of the murder. The substance of the story shows women as intellectually strong, and mentally tough as men. Of course, history, as well as this fictional story, shows many women are as intellectually strong and mentally tough as men; e.g. Cleopatra, Sojourner Truth, Indira Gandhi, Golda Meir, Benazir Bhutto, Malala Yousafzai, and others.
French’s story brings the inequality of human life into the day-to-day life of today’s women. Conway is characterized as an intelligent, determined, and independent murder detective. Conway is not perfect. She carries her own prejudices, but she focuses on evidence to prove her murder cases.