Monday, September 22, 2014
Ever since visiting Dublin a few weeks ago, I've been on a bit of a Tana French kick. I read one book on the way over (and back) and then I came home and wanted more. Of course, it's hard not to love a Tana French Dublin Murder Squad novel, but I also was hoping for some name dropping (or rather place dropping) of things I'd seen in Dublin. I think I'm moving backwards in this series, but I decided to read FAITHFUL PLACE next. I'm pretty sure I've read the last three books first, but I'm getting there!
In FAITHFUL PLACE, Frank Mackey (who appears in THE LIKENESS and again in THE SECRET PLACE) goes back home to Dubin's inner city when an old suitcase belonging to his one-time girlfriend Rosie is discovered. Frank hasn't been home for over 20 years and it's only something as major as this that could ever bring him back.
Rosie and Frank had a bit of the Romeo and Juliet thing going on (and to be fair, Frank's family was a bit crazy.) They wanted to be together so they planned to leave for England for a better life. On the night they agreed to meet, Rosie doesn't show but she does leave a letter which leads Frank to believe that she went without him.
Frank has never really gotten over the loss of his true-love Rosie, so he rushes back home to investigate. He discovers a body... which ends up being Rosie's, and immediately finds himself dealing with many difficult things from his past. As he tries to uncover the truth about Rosie's murder, he also has to balance stepping on toes in the police department and finding time to spend with his daughter. However, his biggest challenge just might be navigating the complicated relationships within his family and dealing with his bitter resentment.
FAITHFUL PLACE is a wonderful book! I absolutely loved it! It doesn't really get any better than Tana French's literary mysteries. I loved the mystery aspect of this novel, but it almost seems secondary to the wonderfully complex cast of characters and the writing. Frank Mackey is one of those characters that sticks with you (maybe that's why he's appeared in so many of Ms. French's novels.) And the way Ms. French weaves a story -- from the setting of Faithful Place, to the descriptions of Dublin, to the gradual reveal of the truth -- is just amazing. I was caught up in this story from the first few pages and didn't want it to end.
You can't discuss FAITHFUL PLACE without immediately acknowledging that Frank Mackey is a brilliantly drawn character. He narrates this story and I think that's one of the things that makes this book so special. Ms. French did an amazing job getting his voice just right, and I loved his cynicism and snarkiness. He was gutsy and determined, but also very damaged; and I actually came to appreciate his harshness the more I got to know him.
In addition, I loved the setting of this novel -- Faithful Place in Dublin. Of course, I was reading for a few references to places I had seen or passed while visiting a few weeks ago; and I was treated to a few -- mainly Trinity College and a few pubs. I especially appreciated how she brought this poor neighborhood and its inhabitants to life.
The mystery aspect of this novel was really, really good too. I mentioned earlier that the mystery was almost secondary to the rest of the book for me, but that's probably not true. I definitely was interested in finding out who was responsible for Rosie's murder, as well as a few other things that I can't give away here! As the truth was eventually revealed, I wasn't totally surprised, but that wasn't necessary to appreciate the story. The way everything came together was absolutely perfect!
It's obvious that there were many positives about FAITHFUL PLACE, but one of my favorite things was how this book delved into some complex subjects. If you've ever read a book by Ms. French, then you know she doesn't hesitate to tackle some serious issues. In this novel, she explored class differences, family problems, alcoholism, second chances, resentment, and love; and she manages to do this is such a smart and insightful way.
The novel went back and forth between the mid 1980s and present day, and I can't even explain how well Ms. French does this. I appreciated seeing Dublin when the economy wasn't exactly booming and how the neighborhood looked now. In addition, the transitions between the two stories are natural, and Ms. French never missed a beat with juxtaposing the Frank of today with the Frank of the past. It was easy to see why Frank was holding onto so much pain from his teenage years -- pain that was still affecting his life and his current relationships.
FAITHFUL PLACE would make an excellent book club pick. Because the characters and the story are so complex, there is a great deal to discuss. Heck, Frank is so interesting in his own right that you could analyze him for hours! Some of the themes you might want to explore are trust, betrayal, marriage, family dynamics, abuse, alcoholism, resentment, class differences, poverty, and love.
I adored FAITHFUL PLACE and intend to read the last (or should I say first?) two of Ms. French's books. I love this series, with all of its complexities; and I truly can't get enough of Ms. French's writing. Highly recommended!
Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this book.