Irish author, Tana French treats us to an insider’s view of a close-knit, discontented neighborhood in a poor section of Dublin and an even closer look at a dysfunctional family at its worst and best in her third novel, Faithful Place. Faithful Place is ostensibly a murder mystery but this story unfolds well beyond the detective work.
Frank Mackey is an undercover detective with Dublin’s finest, fresh off a divorce and devoted to his nine-year old daughter. His life seems fairly typical for a middle-class cop but some twenty years ago, he escaped his abusive family, leaving home and never looking back.
Ever since that fateful night twenty years earlier, Mackey has been living a scarred life, believing that the love of this life dumped him. The plan was to run off to London with his secret girlfriend, Rosie. This was Rosie’s idea and Frank was more than happy to go along but when he goes to meet Rosie at the end of the street in an abandoned house to make their escape, he finds a note but no Rosie. He doesn’t turn back and although he never makes it to London, he also never goes back home. Until now.
French’s characters adopt their native Irish brogue throughout the novel and her writing reflects all the grammatical mispronunciations. At first, the accent-reflected writing seemed a barrier to becoming fully invested in the story but after a couple of chapters, the accents were as much characters as Mackey himself.
The book title, Faithful Place, lets the reader know that this is more than a story about the people but about a neighborhood that shaped these characters. The mystery here is not that well cloaked, the reader can make a fairly accurate guess early on despite a few attempts at twists and turns.
What the reader cannot predict is the complexity of the protagonist, Mackey. He is a good guy, right? He’s a detective, he loves his daughter unconditionally, doesn’t drink too much, he never hits a woman. These are the parameters that he has measured his life and declared himself nothing like his family. Blood runs thicker and deeper than he may expect and although he is all those things, he is also a master of deception, a talent that runs in the family as much as his good looks.
French may attract the murder mystery fans but the readers who will most enjoy this novel are those who appreciate the complex family dynamics.
Faithful Place by Tana French was purchased the Boston Book Bums for review