The Searcher: A Novel

by Tana French

Hardcover, 2020

Call number



Viking (2020), 464 pages

User reviews

LibraryThing member brangwinn
I never thought I would be able to say, “Yes, I DO have a favorite Tana French book” but I can with this one. I always love her book, but with Black Lives Matter in the forefront of the news, I find Cal Hooper, the retired policeman from Chicago, has a lot to say about race relations as well as continuing concern about why his wife left him. He wants to not only understand her, but their grown daughter’s feelings. When he decides to move to a small Irish village, he is looking forward to peace. Hah, as any resident of a small town can tell him, interpersonal relationships are multi-layered. Add to that, a rugged single American man is obviously in need of a wife. Most compelling to me in the story is his befriending of a 12-year-old in need of friendship and a decent meal. Trey, who we assume is a boy, turns out to be a girl. Hooper has been having Trey help him refinish an old desk. Mart, Cooper’s neighbor, makes sure he knows that a grown man hanging out with a young girl is fodder for the town gossip. Things really heat up as Cooper tries to find out what has happened to Brendan, Trey’s 19-year-old brother. Not only is the solution to the mystery satisfying and hits close to home, but French has created a lovely village background for the story filled with a vivid mix of interesting residents.… (more)
LibraryThing member lauralkeet
After retiring from the Chicago police force, Cal was looking for a quiet, solitary lifestyle where he could also recover (or maybe escape?) from his recent divorce. He finds a small, inexpensive fixer-upper in a remote Irish village. As he settles in, Cal gets to know a few people in the village, and with their help begins learning the ways of their deceptively different culture. And then Trey, a teenager from a difficult family circumstances, comes into his life looking for help. Trey’s older brother Brendan disappeared six months earlier, and no one -- not even the police, or Trey’s mother -- seems interested in finding him. Trey knows Cal was once a cop and hopes he can help find Brendan. Cal doesn’t particularly want to take on an investigation, but can’t ignore Trey’s emotional state.

Cal takes advantage of being both the “new guy” and “not from around here” to ask questions of anyone he chooses, and does a pretty good job of making up legitimate reasons for asking. But he still manages to arouse suspicion, and runs into some roadblocks. As a reader, I quickly became disoriented, not sure who was trustworthy and who might be working to undermine Cal’s efforts. Tana French delivered a couple of good surprises, which I enjoyed, and while some elements of the “reveal” are obvious in hindsight, I didn’t figure it out on my own and I enjoyed the journey.

After being disappointed with French’s The Wych Elm, it was great to see her back on her game.
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LibraryThing member SquirrelHead
The Searcher was another of Tana French's novels which had me hooked from the start. I loved the setting and having been fortunate enough to visit Ireland a few times, she nailed the atmosphere. The dialogue, the way the chill and cold was described as seeping into your bones, the banter at the pubs - loved it.

These charatcers were brought to life and I felt I was in the room when they were talking in the pub or at Cal's cottage. Cal Hooper was a likeable enough character and while he could be villager in a future novel, I don't see him as playing a major part as a detective coming up. I mention this as I saw some reviews which expressed interest in seeing him in an upcoming novel. I just don't see how that could work.

He is after all a retired American detective trying to find peace and quiet in beautiful Ireland. A child named Trey seems to stalk him and eventually asks Cal to investigate the disappearance of Trey's older brother. He agrees and while it seems an unlikely scenario for an American to involve himself in an investigation all on his own, it all plays out to a satisfactory ending. You get some surprises and if you didn't like Witch Elm, her last book, you'll be glad this plot and set of characters was an improvement.

That being said, I much prefered the Dublin Murder Squad series and long for Tana French to return to those type novels. I loved the way a minor character in an investigation was given a bigger role in the next book. Give me Frank Mackey, Cassie Maddox, Rob Ryan and Stephen Moran again.
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LibraryThing member Beamis12
Very different from her other books and the first not set in Dublin. Instead it is set in a small Irish Village, a village of farmers, fishermen and people who have lived there for quite some time. Cal, our narrator, is a Chicago cop who has left that vocation. He is a divorced father of a grown daughter, whom he misses dearly. He has come to Ireland, this village, to find peace and a place where he can be pretty much left alone. He bought an old, dilapidated, long abandoned house which he is repairing, fixing some furniture left by previous owners. It is while engaged with this work that he meets Trey, a young teenager who will eventually ask him to find a missing, older brother.

Although there is a missing boy, this is not really a mystery, or not only a mystery. It is very slowly paced, a measured sloshed that allows the reader the opportunity to totally know the characters and their environment. To notice the details, the setting, and the feelings that live within. The slowness also serves as a way to ratchet up the tension, the insidiousness that grows as more in uncovered, discovered. There is violence, but not more than is necessary to serve the storyline.

Ultimately it is a story if a unique, multi generational friendship and of people that want to live their lives they way they always have, without interference. Also a book that highlights poverty and what the lack of opportunities will compel people to do, desperation. I enjoyed it, but be warned it is more a quieter, immersive read, not what I would call a thriller. This author though, sure can write and exceedingly well at that.

ARC from Netgalley.
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LibraryThing member shelleyraec
The Searcher is a compelling stand alone mystery from Irish author Tana French, best known for her Dublin Murder Squad series.

Upon the end of his marriage and his retirement from a twenty-five career in the Chicago P.D., Cal Hooper decides to move to a rural village in the west of Ireland where he intends to do little else than to renovate his dilapidated farmhouse, fish from the stream, and walk the mountains. He finds the relaxed pace of his new life, enhanced by a regular craic with his neighbour, Mart, and the occasional drink in the local pub, suits him, though he misses his adult daughter. But Cal can’t quite shake the habits of a lifetime and when thirteen-year-old Trey Reddy begs for his help, he reluctantly agrees to look into the disappearance of the desperate kid’s older brother.

While it’s true that this is not a fast paced thriller, I was nevertheless drawn in, and held captive by the compelling characterisation, atmosphere and plot of The Searcher.

The first half of the book focuses largely on establishing and developing the characters that play an important role in the story. I liked Cal, a burnt-out ex-cop who doesn’t want, or need, much. He’s fine being on his own but not defensive about it, as shown by his willingness to indulge his garrulous neighbour, Mart. His patience with Trey, who is a smart, fierce kid from a poor family with a bad reputation, is admirable, and the relationship French develops between Cal and Trey is a true strength of the novel.

The community of Ardnakelty is a character in itself. I was impressed with French’s ability to effortlessly evoke the settings within her novel, from Noreen’s general store and Sean Og’s pub, to Cal’s isolated, ramshackle farmhouse surrounded by fields, and woods, and peat-bog mountains. There is a great deal lurking below the surface of this rural idyll, and its seemingly straightforward farming folk, with surprises that break through when least expected.

Trey’s brother, Brendan, has been missing for several months by the time Trey asks Cal for his help. No one else seems concerned by the absence of the nineteen-year-old, the assumption being he left voluntarily, either because he’d had enough of life at home, or perhaps to avoid some sort of trouble. Cal is instinctively wary of pushing too hard for information as his investigation begins, but in such an insular community his interest is immediately noted, and as Cal tugs at the threads that will unravel the mystery of Brendan’s fate, he draws trouble to his doorstep.

With its escalating tension, unexpected twists, and flashes of violence, I found the plot to be wholly satisfying, but it’s less the action, and more the complex and nuanced behaviours of the characters that are truly captivating. Unfolding in evocative prose with an Irish lilt, at a deliberate, absorbing pace The Searcher is a compulsive read.
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LibraryThing member Doondeck
Engrossing story. French manages to capture both the Chicago and Irish flavor.
LibraryThing member miss.mesmerized
'That's what I came looking for,' he says. 'A small place. A small town in a small country. It seemed like that would be easier to make sense of. Guess I might've had that wrong.'

Cal Hooper, former detective with the Chicago police, left the States for a small village in Ireland. He bought an old run-down house that he is now repairing to make it a liveable place. For a couple of days already, he has felt somehow observed but couldn't see anybody, when suddenly a small boy appears. At first, Trey is shy and does not speak and only reluctantly comes closer. It takes some time for him to open up and reveal why he has come to Cal. His older brother Brendan has gone missing and nobody seems to be concerned or willing to do something about it. Trey is convinced that Brendan did not just pack his bag and leave to find his luck in Dublin, something really bad must have happened to him. Cal has come to like the shy boy who is eager to learn about repairing old furniture and has become a pleasant company, therefore, he agrees to use his experience as a cop and ask some questions. It does not take long for Cal to realise that his new home is all but an idyllic and peaceful place.

Tana French's novel combines a mystery about a missing teenager with a heart-wrenching story about two lonely people who by chance find each other. It also shows a reality which nobody wants to see, a place which is out of the focus of any institutions and where some kind of parallel law has been established nobody dares to interfere with. The people, quite sadly, do not play an important role in this concept. Neglected youngsters either adapt or risk their lives.

The biggest star of the novel, at least for me, is surely Trey. A courageous small kid, about 12 years old, who obviously lacks all education but has the heart in the right place and definitely an understanding of right and wrong. Even though well known in the small village, he does not know anybody to turn to and has to address a total stranger to find help. Everything connected to him is touching deeply and it is heart-breaking to see how Cal manages to gain his trust and build a friendship.

The mystery part of the novel advances slowly but then accelerates and turns into a suspenseful crime story. The whole plot lives on the atmosphere and the characters who are brilliantly created and make it a great read.
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LibraryThing member diana.hauser
THE SEARCHER is written Tana French.
Ms. French is an award-winning mystery writer. Previous works include THE WITCH ELM and the Dublin Murder Squad series.

“Cal Hooper thought a fixer-upper in a bucolic Irish village would be the perfect escape. After twenty-five years in the Chicago police force and a bruising divorce, he just wants to build a new life in a pretty spot with a good pub where nothing much happens. But when a local kid whose brother has gone missing arm-twists him into investigating, Cal uncovers layers of darkness beneath his picturesque retreat, and starts to realize that even small towns shelter dangerous secrets.” [Amazon]

The writing is exquisite; lyrical, suspenseful, ‘atmospheric’, patient and searching.
The characters are puzzling at times and very needy. They are interesting and complex.
The description of the ‘place’ (rural west Ireland) is pure poetry.
A very good read. ****
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LibraryThing member RidgewayGirl
A Chicago police officer, newly divorced and recently retired, decides he wants a quiet life and so he buys a run-down cottage in rural Ireland. Cal's doing pretty well, slowly renovating his house and getting to know the neighbors - mostly older farmers - when a young member of the infamous Reddy family shows up. Trey has heard that Cal's a police officer and needs his help finding someone. As Cal looks into the disappearance and gets to know his young neighbor, his plans for a quiet retirement start to fall apart.

This is another stand-alone mystery by Tana French. It's well-plotted and the characters are achingly real, as they always are in her novels. Because the main character is American, this has a bit of an Ireland for Foreigners feel to it, but not so much as to be overly intrusive. This is an enjoyable book for a rainy evening or two. The crime itself is secondary to the story of a stranger to a community making connections and learning about himself, but Cal's an interesting enough character to spend time with.
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LibraryThing member TomDonaghey
The Searcher (2020) by Tana French. Fans of Tana French’s writing will not be disappointed. Here she has stepped away from her ‘Dublin Murder Squad’ writing and given us something fresh and different. She has taken the framework of the classic American Western story and made it alive in today’s world.
Cal Hooper is a burned out lawman. All he wants is a quiet life in a small town far away from his past. But we all know that this is not going to happen for him. He has come home to Ireland although he isn’t Irish. He bought a fixer-upper just out of a small town on the Irish west coast and has settled in to repair and replace and make the place a habital home.
He, like most Western heroes, is a quiet man who wants to be left alone. He has a talkative neighbor who has decided to take Cal under his wing, and Cal doesn’t object to the idea. And there is Trey who shows up at Cal’s house when the rumor that Cal was a detective back in Chicago seeps through town. Trey wants Cal to find the missing 19-year old brother who disappeared several months before.
Reluctantly, Cal takes on the assignment, against his better judgement. He knows that Trey is only 13 and is desperate to solve the puzzle of the absent brother. Cal knows Trey is only going to blunder into trouble if there is any, trouble that might have befell the older Brendan. Trouble that might have gotten the elder killed or at least caused him to rabbit off without a word of leave behind him.
Ms. French captures the wild west of Ireland in every chapter. As always, her style is a bit laconic but captivating. And she evokes the sights, sounds, and even the smells of small town Irish life where everyone knows your business, sometimes even before you know it yourself. Be it the wilds of the near-by mountains, the calm of fishing the local river, or drinking with new friends in the local, each chapter rings with it yet another delight.
This is yet another fine novel from this very promising writer who has delivered the goods every time.
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LibraryThing member juju2cat
After reading the Dublin Murder Squad books I expected a deeply psychological book and found this was not the case; in fact, it was more like a coming of age book that someone like William Kent Krueger would write. It was beautiful and the descriptions of the land were wonderful. I was a bit disappointed but I believe it was my fault for presuming it would in the same vein as the Dublin books. STILL a good book, though.… (more)
LibraryThing member froxgirl
This eighth French novel has less tension than her prior efforts, as the standard setting has moved from Dublin to a rural town in Ireland, where former Chicago detective Cal Hooper has retired after a divorce and an almost disastrous street shooting. Without Irish ancestry and knowing not a soul in the area, his decision to rehab an old cottage seems strange and suspicious to his neighbors and also to this reader, but I take everything French writes as thriller gospel. Cal's pub visits and shopping trips to the tiny village are amusing until they're not. When an eleven year old child seeks Cal out to track down a missing older sibling, Cal's need to investigate subsumes his ill-thought-out attempt to settle into quiet country life. There is the usual cast of vividly etched minor characters and an almost visual sense of land and weather. " 'S only gorgeous."

Quote: "Their focus isn't much broader than a prey animal's. They're all used up by scrabbling to keep their footing; they don't have room for anything bigger than staying one jump ahead of bad things and snatching the occasional treat along the way."
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LibraryThing member bookworm12
French remains one of my favorite authors. This standalone follows a Chicago cop who relocates to Ireland to find peace. When a youngster named Trey shows up and asks a favor he finds himself exercising detective skills he wanted to leave behind. The descriptions of the people and places are what make this book so captivating. She manages to invoke the blustery land with such affection and precision that you can feel the stinging wind on your cheeks. Even though the story move slowly, I was comfortable settling in for the tail and knowing that her writing would make it all worth it.

“Cal has always liked mornings. He draws a distinction between this and being a morning person, which he isn’t: it takes time, daylight and coffee to connect up his brain cells.”

“It takes a wise man to spot when he needs the bitta advice from someone that knows his way around.”
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LibraryThing member -Eva-
Retired Chicago police officer Cal Hooper is restoring his new house in Ireland when he is approached by a neighbor who asks him to solve a missing person's case. As usual, Tana French gives us a meandering and completely irresistible tale. This is not part of her Dublin Murder Squad-series and it is a more straight-forward mystery, but her descriptions of characters and locale are equally engaging. Recommended for anyone who likes well-written mysteries.… (more)
LibraryThing member bookczuk
Pandemic read. One good thing-- in 2020 I discovered Tana French.
LibraryThing member susandennis
This was a very excellent book and with an excellent reader. retired chicago cop moves to rural ireland and gets ensnared in the local world. elegantly told to the last word.
LibraryThing member bogopea
First Tanya French I could not get into.
LibraryThing member DrApple
This novel features a retired Detroit cop who moves to rural Ireland in hopes of a quiet life. He finds, however, that crime isn't just something that happens in big cities.
LibraryThing member sberson
Lacking drama- this is an outlier for French.
LibraryThing member RowingRabbit
There are a handful of authors on my “No-Brainer” list. Their books are the ones I automatically reach for.…don’t need to see the cover, read the synopsis or check any reviews. Just gimme.

That doesn’t mean all of their books were 5 star reads. You always enjoy some more than others but something about their writing style and/or characters keeps me coming back. Ms. French is one of those authors & this book is no exception. All her books contain an element of crime but some are driven by suspense while others focus on the characters. This story is more about how the characters are affected by a crime than the crime itself.

Cal Hooper is a man who doesn’t mess around when he decides he needs a change. In short order he retired from the Chicago P.D., got divorced & bought a cottage in rural Ireland sight unseen. Yep, it’s a handyman special but he now has nothing but time. Let the renovations begin.

At first Cal’s solitude is only broken by visits from Mart, his elderly cookie-scarfing neighbour. But he soon senses another presence. It turns out to be 13 year old Trey Reddy, a shy kid who’s heard about this odd American. And he wants to hire him. Trey’s brother Brendan disappeared a while back & no one seems to care. Not the local cops, not even his worn out mother. Trey figures it’s because he’s a Reddy….a name synonymous with the Irish equivalent of trailer trash.

Cal came here to leave his old life behind. He’s lost his inner compass, that thing that made him trust his own judgement. In its place is self-doubt & uncertainty as to who he is now & where he belongs. You get the sense he & the old cottage have a lot in common. Both need someone to peel away layers, repair what’s broken & build them back up.

Cal chose his new home based on location. As an outsider in a rural area, he thought he’d have the physical & emotional space he needs. Now he’s buying cookies for a nosy neighbour while dodging the local matchmaker. Trey shows up most days to help with the renos. The kid’s quiet desperation finally gets to him & Cal agrees to look into Brendan’s disappearance. Oh man, be careful what you wish for.

So….a wee heads-up for all you French fans. Don’t go into this expecting a tense, suspenseful read akin to the Dublin Murder Squad books. It’s more like her last book, a slow burn type of story with fully realized characters & atmospheric prose. Yes, there is crime but it’s almost incidental. What you have is a beautifully written narrative that is completely character driven. It’s moody, descriptive & some scenes hurt my heart.

As I read I couldn’t help but think of “Shane”, the classic western. A solitary stranger arrives in town & is approached by a poor kid up against locals intent on maintaining the status quo. All the ingredients are there, delivered in Irish vernacular. Just don’t expect any white hats.

So maybe leave your preconceptions at the door. The depiction of setting & language is spot on & you’ll soon find yourself surrounded by misty rains & 40 shades of green.
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LibraryThing member maneekuhi
Tana French has written 8 books beginning with “Into the Woods” (2006). The first six were part of a series grouped as the Dublin Murder Squad (2006-16, every two years like clockwork). I use the term “series” loosely; a protagonist in one book may be totally absent in the next, maybe gone forever. Some hung around for another book, maybe two, as a supporting actor. I never liked any of her protagonists, never really cared if they succeeded or failed. Actually most just seemed to survive. I read all of her books with the exception of the previous one, “Witch Elm”; I didn’t care for the plot description. Tana French is a darling of book critics. She is saluted for her prose, her complex plots, and sometimes her characters. Her Dublin books were not traditional mysteries – they did not seem to be at all about the crime. Rather it was more about the characters’ motivations, behaviors.

“The Searcher” is about Cal, a recently retired Chicago police cop/detective. He has retired to Ireland and bought a somewhat charming dump of a place. He is soon approached by a neighbor kid wanting his help in finding an older brother who vanished six months ago. The locals don’t want Cal interjecting himself into their affairs; they have nasty little ways of making their preferences known. And there’s a local widow who’s wooing message seems to be “take it or leave it”. But the countryside is pretty. At the conclusion, Cal must make a Big Decision; the fact that I don’t get his choice probably says as much about me as it does about French. Whatever. Like too many of her books, “The Searcher” has too many slow moments, and it creates an environment I never got comfortable with nor appreciated, including Widow Lena. I think I’m finally done with French.
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LibraryThing member pgchuis
There were humorous episodes in this book (the moonshine-drinking evening for example), but other than that I found it boring. The ending was an anti-climax, and I was unhappy with the idea that Cal would commit to settle in the community, knowing what he now does about it.

LibraryThing member EdGoldberg
Tana French is an American born, Dublin based author. She studied acting at Trinity College in Dublin and in between acting jobs did a stint on an archeological dig which is where the inspiration for the plot of her first book, In the Woods, originated. It won the Edgar, Anthony, Barry and Macavity awards for best first novel. She has either won or been shortlisted for various other awards. She is the author of six “Dublin Murder Squad” novels, the first two of which, including In the Woods, were commissioned and filmed by BBC for TV. Her two standalone novels are The Witch Elm and The Searcher. She has been referred to as the “First Lady of Irish Crime” whereas Val McDermid, I think has been referred to as the “Queen of Scottish Crime”.
The only Tana French book I have read was Broken Harbor which I really enjoyed.

Twenty-five-year retired Chicago police veteran, Cal Hooper is looking for nothing more than to fix up the dilapidated cottage he bought in a remote part of Western Ireland, take long walks in the cool mountain air, catch his dinner by either fishing or shooting the odd rabbit and play Johnny Cash as loud as he wants with only the forest denizens to complain. Reeling from a recent divorce, the cause of which he can’t get his head around, and the estrangement from his daughter, he needs some isolation to recoup, figure out who he is and what he wants. He thinks the tiny village of Ardnakelty is just what he needs.

Little did he realize how insular these small villages are and how hard it is to be a stranger and not know the rules. Also, he didn’t know that 13-year-old Trey was going impinge upon his privacy and cajole him to look into Trey’s brother Brendan’s disappearance 6 months earlier.

At first Cal refuses, but Trey is persistent and soon Cal relents. Subtlety is not Cal’s forte and as he ‘innocently’ asks questions of his neighbors and the townspeople, the more walls are built between them, until one day he is not so subtly warned off. Of course, as with any police officer, being warned off only adds to his curiosity.

As many reviewers wrote, The Searcher is more a book about finding oneself and relationships than it is a murder mystery or police procedural. (You’re a hundred pages in before you even get to the mystery.) Sure, you wonder whether Brendan is alive or dead, was he abducted or did he leave his small town for the big city. Sure, you wonder what the townspeople have to hide. But, it’s Cal’s world that is interesting, his internal dilemma, his relationship with Trey that is the true story. French says she doesn’t like to be pigeonholed and she is not in The Searcher.
French is considered a more ‘literary’ author and her description of the countryside where Cal’s cottage is located or the rooks that inhabit the trees in his yard is part of the joy of reading The Searcher. Kirkus said it was ‘richly layered.’

As an aside, French has said that the title of the book is a tribute to the John Ford film, The Searchers, which I now should watch.

Tana French says that she’s a big fan of Donna Tartt, author of The Secret History and Goldfinch. French fans will love this departure from her series as will readers who like crime fiction set in small towns like those of Julia Keller (who I never read) and Jane Harper, whose books I love. Harper, too, is a somewhat literary writer whose books go beyond the routine ‘mystery’.

A great read for the story and the prose.
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LibraryThing member Bookmarque
Too opaque. I could barely figure out what crime had been committed since my attention wandered so much during the audiobook. In the end nothing really happens and nothing changes for the town or the lives of anyone in it. Why did she write this?
LibraryThing member Vanessa_Menezes
After twenty-five years in the Chicago police force, Cal Hooper thought a fixer-upper in a remote Irish village would be the perfect escape.

But then a local kid, Trey, comes looking for his help. His brother has gone missing, and no one, least of all the police, seems to care. Despite his initial hesitation, Cal decides to help Trey and soon begins to discover that even in the most idyllic small town, secrets lie hidden.

This was a slow burn mystery but definitely intriguing
I loved the portrayal of rural Ireland, the description and the atmosphere throughout the book was great. It was more character driven so we do get to read some very interesting characters, who tend to reiterate the fact that people aren't always what they seem.

The investigation into what happened to Trey’s brother felt like kind of secondary to me. But the ending even though not surprising was good and quite positive.

This was a literary novel rather than the usual mystery and psychological thriller, that I generally read. So, it did take me a while to get into but I am glad I did, because was so different and captivating.

Thank You NetGalley and Penguin General UK for this ARC!
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