Publisher: Viking Adult, 2010
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
My Rating: 4.5 stars
This was the first book I read for the RIP VI Challenge. Because I don’t want to get too far behind in writing these reviews, I’m going to review all my RIP books by answering the 5Ws―Who, What, When, Where, Why. Plus I’ve included my patented Scare-O-Meter Rating system so you can decide if you can handle the level of fright induced by the book.
Scare-O-Meter Rating: 4 screams out of 10. This is another of French’s character-driven mysteries that are heavy on the psychological suspense and feelings of impending dread but not scary in a “Oh my God what was that sound?” way.
WHAT is this book about?
Frank Mackey (who was introduced in The Likeness) is an undercover cop who doesn’t always play by the rules and cut ties with his family when he left home more than two decades ago. In the prologue, we’re with 19-year-old Frank as he waits for his love, Rosie Daly, to meet him in the wee hours of the morning on their street called Faithful Place. They plan to run away to England and make a new life for themselves—far away from their dysfunctional families and the spiral of poverty and “small” lives that tend to entrap residents of the Place. But Rosie never shows, and Frank has always believed that she left without him. Now, 22 years later, Rosie’s suitcase (along with her ferry tickets to England) show up in an abandoned house on Faithful Place. When his sister Jackie tells Frank the news, he reluctantly returns home. The discovery of the suitcase shakes the foundations of Frank’s entire life: What if Rosie didn’t leave him behind? What if she never left at all? This time, Frank won’t be able to escape Faithful Place as long-buried secrets begin to surface and bind Frank to the place he fought to escape his whole life.
WHO do we meet?
- Frank Mackey, the narrator of the book. The foundation of Frank’s entire life is shifting under him as he’s forced to confront the past and the way of life he hoped to leave behind forever. His pain and discomfort at having to face his family again is agonizing, and he must call on all of his skills as an undercover cop to figure out what happened to Rosie all those years ago.
- The members of the Mackey family that Frank left behind, including: his sister Jackie, the only family member that Frank has stayed in touch with; Shay, the oldest brother who harbors resentment that his younger siblings got a better life while he and the eldest sister Carmel bore the brunt of their parent’s cruelty; and Kevin, the youngest brother, who has lived a sheltered existence thanks to the protection of his older siblings. The matriarch of the family, Ma, is viewed by her children as a nag and a manipulator, but she’s put up for years with her abusive, alcoholic, chronically unemployed husband, Da.
- Frank’s 9-year-old daughter Holly, who is growing up faster than Frank would like and, despite Frank’s best efforts, seems to have some Mackey blood in her.
- Olivia, Frank’s ex-wife, who always sensed Frank was waiting for “the one who got away” but tried to love him anyway. Their shared love and concern for Holly keep them tied to each other, despite Olivia having a few secrets of her own.
WHEN and WHERE does the book take place?
The events of the book take place in 2007, primarily in Frank’s old neighborhood in Dublin called The Liberties, which Frank describes like this.
The Liberties got their name, hundreds of years ago, because they went their own way and made their own rules. The rules in my road went like this: no matter how skint you are, if you go to the pub then you stand your round; if your mate gets into a fight, you stick around to drag him off as soon as you see blood, so no one loses face; you leave the heroin to them down in the flats; even if you’re an anarchist punk rocker this month, you go to Mass on Sunday; and no matter what, you never, ever squeal on anyone.
Frank also flashes back to the past, primarily 1985 when he and Rosie were together and making their plans for escape.
WHY should you read this book?
Tana French is a master of weaving complex, psychologically suspenseful stories that put you fully into the mind and environment of the narrator. Considering that French always gives her protagonists a complex mystery to solve, tensions always run high and I’ve read all her books with a feeling of doom and dread hanging over me. Yet I always find something to love about her characters and some sort of humor. In this book, I found Frank—despite his often morally dubious methods—to be a stand-up guy. In some ways, he reminded me Mikael Blomquist in the Steig Larrson books. In addition, the charm of the Irish way of talking and the vivid portrait of life on Faithful Place creates a richly drawn world that I felt like I was visiting whenever I read the book. The bottom line is that Tana French writes intelligent, character-driven mysteries that come alive in ways that affect your mind and soul. She hasn’t written a bad book yet, and I’d list her as one of my favorite authors. My only complaint is that she isn’t more prolific!
Note: Now that I’ve read all three Tana French novels, I’m anxiously awaiting her next one, which is due in 2012. Because each of her books focus on a character that appeared in previous books, I was trying to guess who might be featured in her next novel. My money was on the young detective Stephen (who Frank manipulates and mentors in this book), but then I found this interview, which reveals that Scorcher Kennedy will be the next narrator. Although this threw me for a loop as I wasn’t exactly drawn to Scorcher in this book, I trust Tana French implicitly, and I’ll be buying her book the second it comes out.
What are other bloggers saying about this book? You can find out at the Book Blogs Search Engine. However, I happen to know that Jill at Rhapsody in Books recently wrote an excellent review of this book that is worth checking out.