Wednesday, 22 February 2017

#CBR9 Book 10: "Faithful Place" by Tana French

Page count: 449 pages
Audio book length: 14hrs 8 mins
Rating: 4 stars

A spring evening in 1985, nineteen-year-old Frank Mackie is waiting impatiently outside for his girlfriend Rosie Daly, as they plan to elope and move to London, making a new life for themselves away from the hard life of the Dublin working poor. When she doesn't show, Frank goes looking for her in the abandoned house a few door down, and finds a note that suggests she's gone off without him. As Frank's father is a violent drunk, his mother is neurotic and shrewish and his siblings aren't exactly anything to write home about, Frank's not really surprised, but he is heart-broken. He leaves Faithful Place, intending never to return.

Twenty-two years later, Frank gets a hysterical phone call from his youngest sister. They've found a suitcase behind the fireplace in that same derelict house where Frank found Rosie's note, and signs suggest that Rosie didn't in fact leave to go off to London to make a life for herself by her lonesome. Frank, now a detective on the Dublin Undercover squad, has to return home, even though every instinct tells him it's a bad idea. Soon he is back in the middle of his highly dysfunctional family's drama, determined to do right by Rosie Daly, whether the investigating murder detectives want him around or not.

Frank Mackie was a supporting character in the previous book in this series, The Likeness, and not necessarily a likable one at that. As with the other books in the Dublin Murder Squad series, this book can be read entirely independently and stand alone from the others, and frankly, only tangentially actually involves the Dublin Murder Squad detectives, because Frank is clearly ignoring them to conduct his own investigation into the decades old murder of his ex-girlfriend.

Tana French's murder mysteries are heavy on the psychological component and in this, the story is just as much about Frank reconciling his past and possible future with his very messed up family, as it is about solving the (after a while) two murders that are at the centre of this book. The middle child in a family of five siblings, Frank is the one who "got away", cutting off contact entirely that night he left to elope with Rosie. Even when he believed she'd abandoned her and their joint plans, he still left his home and family, putting himself through the police academy and wanting to be well rid of his entire dysfunctional clan.

The only family member Frank has had any contact with is his younger sister Jackie. He loves his nine-year-old daughter more than anything, and has tried to shield her from any mention of his past. It's also clear that Frank isn't entirely over his ex-wife, although as the book progresses, it's hinted that the reason their marriage fell apart may not just have been due to Frank's workaholic tendencies (this seems to be a common marriage complaint for the spouses of fictional cops), but also because he never entirely got over Rosie, always hoping that she'd reappear in his life from wherever he disappeared to.

The glimpses we get of Frank's adolescence and home life growing up is bleak as hell, and you can't really blame him for not wanting anything to do with his family, especially his father. The story of what happened to Rosie, as it's unravelled, is rather heart-breaking, although I was pretty sure I'd figured out the identity of her killer about halfway through the book.

I like these mysteries, but always think they drag a bit in parts. All three books I've read now seem to take a very roundabout route to get to the point. In these absolutely exhausting times, where I get depressed just from reading newspaper headlines, I'm not entirely sure I can stomach gritty, psychological crime dramas. I suspect I will get round to reading more of Ms. French's books, but not when in the emotional head space I am right now.

Judging a book by its cover: My audiobook came with the newer cover for this book, which I much prefer to the original one (the cracked, peeling paint of a derelict house, with the title and author's name seemingly painted on the wall). The little, abandoned suitcase and the open, empty road, suggesting the possibilities of travel and all sorts of unspoken potential. Which considering the contents of this story just twists the knife around that little bit more.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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