Tana Elizabeth French, American-Irish writer and theatrical actress, is born in Burlington, Vermont, on May 10, 1973. She is a longtime resident of Dublin. Her debut novel, In the Woods (2007), a psychological mystery, wins the Edgar Award for Best First Novel, the Anthony Award for Best First Novel, the Macavity Award for Best First Mystery, and the Barry Award for Best First Novel. The Independent refers to her as “the First Lady of Irish Crime.”
French is born to Elena Hvostoff-Lombardi and David French. Her father is an economist who works on resource management for the developing world, and she lives in numerous countries as a child including Ireland, Italy, the United States and Malawi.
French attends Trinity College Dublin, and trains in acting. She settles in Ireland and has lived in Dublin since 1990. She and her husband have two daughters.
French is enthralled by both acting and writing since her childhood but eventually focuses more on acting. She grows up reading mystery and crime novels. She trains as a professional actor at Trinity, and she works in theatre, film, and voice-over.
In her later 30s, her passion for writing is rekindled. She begins writing her debut novel in the months-long lulls between castings. In the Woods is published in 2007 to international acclaim and receives rave reviews from many publications. Publishers Weekly praises her, saying she “expertly walks the line between police procedural and psychological thriller in her debut” and that “Ryan and Maddox are empathetic and flawed heroes, whose partnership and friendship elevate the narrative beyond a gory tale of murdered children and repressed childhood trauma.” It receives several literary prizes, is a bestseller in hardcover and paperback, and has been termed a “dream debut.” In 2014, Flavorwire includes it in their 50 of the Greatest Debut Novels Since 1950. As of 2015 more than one million copies of In the Woods have been sold.
French’s second novel, The Likeness (2008), presents the story of the first novel’s co-lead, Cassie Maddox. It quickly achieves high positions on bestseller lists in various countries and stays on The New York Times Best Seller list for several months. In its reviews of the novel, Kirkus Reviews praises its mix of “police procedures, psychological thrills and gothic romance beautifully woven into one stunning story.” In an interview with The Guardian, French states that Donna Tartt‘s The Secret History was an influence on The Likeness, opening up the “landscape of friendship as something worthy of exploration and something that could be powerful enough to trigger a murder.”
French’s first six novels are part of the Dublin Murder Squad series. After publishing The Trespasser in 2016, she publishes two standalone novels. Both The Witch Elm and The Searcher also take place in Ireland.
In 2015, Euston Films & Veritas acquire TV production rights. Sarah Phelps writes the screenplay, which she bases on both In the Woods and The Likeness, for the eight-episode series of Dublin Murders, commissioned by the BBC for BBC One and Starz, with RTÉ later joining the project. Filming commences in 2018 in Belfast and Dublin and continues in Dublin to late February 2019. Broadcast begins on BBC One on October 14, 2019, on RTÉ One on October 16, 2019, and on Starz on November 10, 2019.