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Monday, October 18, 2010

Ooo La La! Newest Another Thrilling Triumph for French.

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Usually, hard-boiled crime fiction littered with enough F-bombs to blow the world to smithereens several times over isn't my thing. And yet, I just can't get enough of Irish author Tana French. There's something about her books that keeps me coming back for more. And more. And more. She's penned three novels - I've devoured each one. The woman cannot write fast enough to keep me satisfied!

Like In the Woods and The Likeness, French's newest introduces a compelling cast of fully-realized characters whose lives are about to be blown apart by a gruesome discovery. Faithful Place opens with a cozy domestic scene - undercover officer Frank Mackey is picking up his 9-year-old daughter for a weekend of pizza and kite-flying in the park. Two things which never happen. As soon as Frank steps into his apartment, he spies his voicemail button blinking rapidly. On the other side is the one thing he's always feared: his family. He's spent the last 22 years running from his chaotic childhood in Dublin's inner city with no intention of ever, ever going back. And yet, when "the bubbling cauldron of crazy that is the Mackeys at their finest" (15) comes calling, the ole boy answers.

In Faithful Place, the crumbling neighborhood where Frank came of age, few things ever change. A paint job here, a renovation there - it's enough to get the street in a twitter about folks getting above themselves. So, when a Polish building team finds an old suitcase wedged inside the fireplace of a long-abandoned apartment, tongues really start wagging. Especially when it's revealed to be the property of one Rose Daly, who just happens to be the same young girl who disappeared on the night she was supposed to leave for London with her boyfriend, a 19-year-old local by the name of Frank Mackey. Only Rosie never showed. For the past two decades, everyone - including Rosie's spurned lover - has assumed she's been living it up in England, too la di da to return to her pathetically humble roots. Everyone, it appears, was wrong. But what happened to the apparently love-struck girl with the neon-bright future all laid out before her? How did she end up going exactly nowhere?

Frank, whose scarred heart has always hoped to reunite with his first love, is shaken to his core. Although he's warned off the case by the egocentric Detective Kennedy, he can't keep himself away. He's been on the force long enough to know that the simplest explanation usually solves the crime, which means the answers he's looking for are right here on Faithful Place. Only, Frank's no longer part of the dirty streets, he's a police officer - and if there's one thing the people like less than a no-good Mackey, it's a cop. Especially one who would abandon his upbringing for something as suspect as a better life. If Frank's going to get the answers he so desperately needs, he's going to have to play his cards just right, which means sinking right back into the muck and mire with mates who would happily drown him in it.

As the story of Rosie's last days on Earth slowly unravels, Frank has to face all the ugliness he's been trying so hard to shove behind him: his family's violent, dysfunctional history; the fact that the girl he loved so fiercely might not have felt the same; and the guilt over his part in Rosie's tragic end. Is it, truly, his fault that Rosie died all those years ago? People he's known since toddlerhood think he murdered the sweetest gal on the block. Are they really going to rat out their own to help a monster like him, especially considering his uppity position as one of Dublin's finest? Can anyone, especially a hopeless Mackey, solve a case as cold as this one? Or is Frank doomed to become exactly what everyone always assumed he would be - a futureless nobody dragging himself through Dublin's grimy underbelly with all the other drunks and dole rats?

Like French's other novels, Faithful Place grabbed my attention with its first sentence, yanking me along for a swift, swervy thrill ride that kept me tottering on the edge of my seat, hardly daring to breathe. Although the killer's identity didn't surprise me, the orchestrated inevitability of it all did. French's skillful plotting, masterful character building, and grudging affection for Dublin's saltier citizens makes this one what it is - brilliant.

(Readalikes: In the Woods and The Likeness by Tana French)

Grade: A-

If this were a movie, it would be rated: R for strong language, sexual content and violence

To the FTC, with love: Another library fine find


  1. Excellent review! I love this sort of story, and will definitely be looking for this one. Thanks for bringing it to my attention =)

  2. I've read French before but this book is new to me. Thanks for a good review.

  3. Shantal - I hope you like it! Be sure to LMK what you think.

    Mystica - This one just came out this year - in the summer, I think?


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