Thursday, February 16, 2017
Faithful Place by Tana French: A review
Faithful Place is the third in Tana French's Dublin Murder Squad series, and, just like the first two entries, it is a gem.
We met Frank Mackey, the main character here, in the second book, The Likeness. He was the tough head of the Undercover Squad with a single-minded devotion to the job that left little room for emotion. He was not an especially likable character.
This time around, we learn Frank's backstory. We meet the hardscrabble working class family that produced him and we get to know the community where he grew up - Faithful Place in Dublin.
Frank's family represents the very worst of the Irish stereotypical family of the 20th century. The father is a drunken, brutal beast of a man who can't keep a job and spends most of his life on the dole. His mother is a harpy who hides and excuses her and the children's beatings at the hands of her husband because, what would the neighbors think? Actually, of course, the neighbors know only too well what is going on.
Frank is the middle child of five. He has an older brother and sister and a younger brother and sister. Of the five, he's the only one who made it out of Faithful Place.
When Frank was nineteen, he was in love with beautiful Rosie Daly, another Faithful Place denizen. Rosie was eager to get out and see the world and make a better life for herself. She and Frank planned to run away to London. They had to keep it secret from both families who would have opposed and stopped them.
On the night when they planned to leave, Frank packed his bag and sneaked out of the house to go to their designated meeting place to wait for Rosie. She never came.
Finally, Frank went to a derelict house on the street where they sometimes met, thinking there might have been a misunderstanding about the meeting place. There, he found a note from Rosie that seemed to say she was leaving on her own.
Devastated, Frank decided to leave on his own as well. For twenty-two years, he never returned to Faithful Place.
He did make a life of his own. He joined the Guard, eventually ending up in the Undercover Squad. He married and had a daughter and, in time, divorced. When we meet up with Frank this time, his daughter is nine years old and he adores her. He still seems to be hung up on the ex-wife as well.
Over the years, Frank had been in touch with his younger sister, Jackie. Now a call comes from Jackie. Something has been found in that derelict house where Rosie and Frank used to meet. It is Rosie's suitcase - the one she had packed to run away with Frank. It looks like Rosie might never have got out of Faithful Place after all.
The subsequent discovery of Rosie's decomposed body and the upheaval that this causes in the Daly and Mackey families is the central element in the story of Faithful Place. This novel is, in fact, not just a mystery and suspense thriller, it is in large part a reflection on the structure of families, how they work, how they make us who we are, and what we owe to the other members of our families. In the end, although we may run away from the family and make a new life for ourselves elsewhere, we can never truly escape the gravitational pull of that first social group.
Tana French writes splendid and thought-provoking fiction. She also has the knack for constructing an air-tight mystery/thriller that keeps the reader guessing all the way through. I'm already salivating at the thought of reading the next book in this series.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars