Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Faithful Place by Tana French
Faithful Place is the latest in Tana French's series of mysteries from the Dublin Murder Squad. The story begins with Frank Mackey, a member of the undercover squad. Twenty-two years ago he walked away from his family - mom, dad, and his five siblings - Shay, Carmel (Melly), Kevin and Jackie. He was suppose to run away with his girl Rosie and the two of them were going to escape Faithful Place - a place where those lucky enough to have a job had a dead-end job and where many more were on the dole, a place where no one's life seemed to get any better or change. He and Rosie were going to move to England and live happily ever after. But on the night when they were to make their escape Rosie never showed. It appeared that she had decided to go to England alone. Frank figured it was because of his family; that Rosie finally realized how utterly insane the Mackey family was and wanted nothing to do with him or them. Frank leaves anyway, without Rosie. He goes on with his life, becoming a cop, getting married, having a kid, getting divorced, all without a single phone call, postcard or visit to his family. He thinks they are all horrible and blames them all for his losing Rosie, except for Jackie. He talks to his baby sister on occasion on the theory that she was too young to be at fault for anything that happened. But as to the rest of the Mackey family, he is content with never setting eyes on them again. An 18-year-old thinking and feeling this way is understandable, at 40+ Frank came of to me as self-deluded and selfish.
What finally brings Francis back to Faithful Place is Rosie's suitcase found among the ruins of one of the houses in Faithful Place. For twenty-two years everyone assumed that Rosie was enjoying her new life in England or wherever, that she had been the one to escape the poverty and the drama of families and neighbors fighting and screaming up and down the street that characterized Faithful Place. When her suitcase is found and with the tickets to England still inside everyone begins to question their assumptions. Did she go England? Where is she now? Maybe she never left Faithful Place, and if she didn't, what happened to her?
Faithful Place is one-half mystery and one-half domestic family melodrama. The mystery was good, but not entirely mysterious. I had a pretty good guess as to the identity of the murderer about half way through and was certain after another fifty pages. I spent the last third of the book trying to figure out the why and how and what Frank was going to do when he finally reached the same conclusion I had a hundred pages back.
Notwithstanding the mystery of what happened to Rosie, and later why another character was murdered, a significant portion of the book is about Frank dealing with his family and all his emotional baggage from childhood. I liked the story even if I didn't like Frank much of the time. I felt sorry for him, growing up in home with a physically abusive, alcoholic father and his placating mother, but it's like he thought that he was the only one who suffered. Don't worry no spoilers - I'll just say part of the motive for the first murder centers around shattered dreams and familial responsibility. Frank was one of five kids, but Frank seems to forget about the four others that grew up in the same house he did and what they endured. There's one scene when Frank is dumping on Shay for the time when they were kids when Shay locked a young Frank and a 2-or-3-year-old Kevin in a dirty closet in a rundown house. The kids were terrified and thought Shay was playing a cruel joke on them. For Frank this is proof of what a bastard Shay was. From Shay's perspective he was saving them from their father who had come home in an alcoholic rage and threatened to slit the throat of everyone in the house while they slept, especially the kids. Their mother and the oldest daughter Carmel held the dad off while Shay tried to get the younger kids out of the house. Maybe sticking them in the closest wasn't the best option, but Shay himself was only 8 at the time, and it was the best he knew to do at the time. For a detective, especially an undercover detective, one might think Frank would be better at seeing things from other people's points of view, or at least realizing their might be more to a story, but he never does.
Overall, I would recommend this book. French is good at setting mood and atmosphere and at creating a believable world. Her characters seem like real people, even if I wouldn't ever want to meet them or know them. Faithful Place is evidence of all this. This is her third book and French gets better with each one. Her first two books are In the Woods and The Likeness, two books which are definitely worth checking out.