Monday, June 13, 2011

Faithful Place, by Tana French

In Tana French's third mystery novel set in Dublin, she once again takes a character from her previous book--this time Cassie's boss in Undercover, Frank Mackey--and makes him the center of the story. The divorced Frank has just picked up his nine-year-old daughter for the weekend when he gets a frantic call from his sister Jackie, the only member of his family he has talked to in 22 years. The night he left the family apartment on Faithful Place 22 years ago, he was planning to elope to London with his girlfriend Rosie Daly . . . but Rosie apparently stood him up. Now, however, her suitcase has been discovered in the abandoned building where teenagers used to hang out. When her body is found in the basement of the building, Frank must not only try to figure out who killed her--and it seems highly likely that it was someone in his family--but rethink the meaning of his past and the ways in which viewing himself as the jilted lover shaped his life.

The Mackey family is ferociously dysfunctional. Frank's efforts to untangle the mystery of Rosie's death are complicated by the fact that his sister and ex-wife have secretly been taking his daughter Holly to visit the Mackeys so she can "get to know her family" and Holly is drawn in to the family's craziness.

French continues to explore the meaning of family and the construction of memory within the mystery/thriller genre. This third novel has a more believable plot line than her two earlier works and in that sense is more enjoyable than the others. The language is not, however, as lovely as in the previous two novels (especially In the Woods)--perhaps this is an indicator of French's skill in creating different voices for the characters who narrate the novels. Perhaps we'll learn more in novel four (I'm predicting the narrator will be Detective Stephen Moran, whose dark side is as yet unrevealed to us).

Favorite passage:
She [Frank's ex-wife Olivia] looked so lovely, and so tired. Her skin was starting to turn worn and fragile, and the sickly kitchen light picked out crow's feet around her eyes. I thought of Rosie, round and firm and bloomed like ripe peaches, and how she never got the chance to be any other kind of lovely except perfect. I hoped Dermot realized just how beautiful Olivia's wrinkles were.

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