48 pages 1 hour read

Tana French

The Hunter

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2024

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Summary and Study Guide


The Hunter is a 2024 mystery novel by Tana French. Tana French is an Irish novelist who specializes in capturing the harsh countryside of Ireland through the mystery genre. The Hunter is the sequel to Tana French’s 2020 novel The Searcher. The Hunter follows Cal Hooper, a retired American detective, who lives in the fictional rural town of Ardnakelty, Ireland. Cal mentors a teenager named Trey Reddy, who struggles to come to terms with the reemergence of her absent father Johnny, and the unexpected death of her brother Brendan. The novel explores themes of loyalty and the interconnection of grief and revenge.

This study guide refers to the 2024 Viking print edition.

Content Warning: The source material and this guide reference domestic abuse.

Plot Summary

In Ardnakelty, Ireland, 15-year-old Trey Reddy visits Cal Hooper’s house. Cal Hooper, a 50-year-old retired American police officer, acts as a father figure for Trey. Trey tells Cal that her absentee father, Johnny, returned earlier that day. Cal knows Johnny’s reputation for manipulating people, and he worries that Johnny will make trouble for the people of Ardnakelty.

Johnny invites a group of Ardnakelty men to his house. Johnny explains that while he was in London, he met a man named Cillian Rushborough. Rushborough told Johnny that his grandmother was from Ardnakelty; before she died, she told him about gold the Ardnakelty people buried in the mountains. Johnny tells the men that Rushborough plans to come to Ardnakelty, and he will pay them to dig on their land. The men are skeptical about this proposition, but Johnny thinks that they should plant gold in the river for Rushborough to find to ensure that everyone gets paid.

Trey plans to exact revenge on the Ardnakelty men while they try to swindle Rushborough. Trey knows that a group of Ardnakelty men murdered her brother, Brendan, a few years earlier, but Cal never told her who was responsible. When Rushborough arrives in Ardnakelty, the men plant gold in the river. Trey takes pictures of the men to show Rushborough so she can ruin their plan. However, when Trey shows the pictures to Rushborough, he calls Johnny. Trey realizes that Johnny is Rushborough’s partner and that they are scamming Ardnakelty. Rushborough threatens Trey, but she promises to pretend to find gold in the mountain.  Afterward, Johnny tells Trey that he owes Rushborough money.

Cal suspects that Johnny is working with Rushborough. Before he can accuse Johnny, Trey shows everyone the gold she found in the mountain. Cal realizes that Johnny has gotten Trey involved in his scheme, so he does not say anything.  Afterward, Cal threatens to kill Johnny if he does not leave because his actions are going to have a lasting effect on Trey’s life.

A few days later, Trey discovers Rushborough’s body in the mountains. She sees that someone hit him over the head and stabbed him. Trey gets Cal, and Cal calls the police and examines the body.  Afterward, Detective Nealon interviews Trey. Trey lies to him and says that she heard a group of men near her house in the middle of the night. Cal knows that she is lying to punish Ardnakelty for what happened to Brendan, but he does not say anything. Later, Cal’s girlfriend Lena tells him that the news has spread to Ardnakelty that Rushborough’s real name was Terence Blake. This has caused the Ardnakelty townspeople to suspect Johnny’s connection to Blake. One of the Ardnakelty men named Mart Lavin comes to Cal’s house and threatens Trey and Cal. Mart says that if Trey does not retract her story, then a group of Ardnakelty men will accuse Cal of the crime. Lena convinces Trey to go to Nealon and retract her story to save Cal. Trey tells Nealon that she did not see the men outside her house, but she did see Johnny leaving in the night.

Mart asks Cal to come with a group of Ardnakelty men to Johnny’s house. At the house, the men take Johnny away to a field and force him to dig. Cal does not know what the men plan to do to Johnny, but he fears that they want to murder him. At the Reddy house, Trey warns her mother Sheila that Nealon will come to their house to investigate because Trey told her that she saw Johnny leave the house the night of the murder. Sheila confesses that she murdered Rushborough to protect Trey from becoming involved in Johnny’s scheme. She tells Trey that she lured Rushborough to their shed and murdered him there. Trey decides to burn the shed to destroy the evidence. Cal sees the fire and he takes Johnny toward the house. When Cal gets to the house, he takes Trey back to the car. Johnny apologizes to Trey and then asks them both to tell everyone that they lost him in the fire. Johnny runs in the opposite direction as Cal gets Trey into the car and drives away.

After the fire, Trey stays at Cal’s house. Nealon leaves because he believes that Johnny murdered Rushborough before skipping town. Trey feels relieved of her desire for revenge over Brendan’s death and decides that she needs to focus on her future.