First things first. If you’re not familiar with thriller author Tana French you’re missing out on a really good thing. Faithful Place is her third novel and is every bit as powerful and captivating as The Likeness and In the Woods, both of which I’ve read, reviewed and loudly sung the praises of already.
In addition to crafting intricate and compelling plots, all possessing a somewhat psychological edge, Tana French isn’t afraid to take chances. Her first three books are all part of her Dublin murder squad series, yet they all feature a different first person protagonist. In the Woods, her debut novel, featured a tormented detective named Adam “Rob” Ryan. The story is told from his point of view but, by the end, he’s outshined by Cassie Maddox, his friend, partner and one-time lover. Although Ryan’s name comes up a couple times in The Likeness, his character doesn’t have so much as a cameo appearance. That brings us to Faithful Place¸ where Ryan and Maddox aren’t mentioned at all. There is only one character who is portrayed in all three novels. He’s a detective by the name of Frank Mackey and he’s a real asshole. Faithful Place is his story.
In 1985, a much younger Frank Mackey is preparing to run off to England with his sweetheart. They’re both dealing with family turmoil and decide to disappear together and leave all those problems behind. Instead, she disappears on her own and another twenty years goes by before Mackey finds out for sure what happened to her. A murder investigation drags him reluctantly down memory lane and opens up all those old wounds. Mackey knows he can’t solve the mystery without causing a lot of hurt. He also comes to realize those decades old secrets are darker and more horrifying than anything he could have imagined. So, if you read In the Woods or The Likeness and wondered why Rob and Cassie’s boss was such a jerk, let me just say he came by it honestly.
A person on Twitter asked me if I thought Faithful Place was French’s best work. I don’t even know how to answer that because it’s so different from her two previous novels. I’m tempted to go back and re-read those first two books now that I understand Frank Mackey so much better. Or, maybe I’ll move on to Broken Harbour to see what she pulls out of her hat next. I have no doubt it will be great.
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