I’ve been waiting for this book for what seems like an eternity. Really only two years. But seemed like longer.
Tana French is an amazing writer, full stop. In The Woods and The Likeness, her first two novels, were devoured in the space of about a week two summers ago. I tore through them, overshooting my allotted lunches and nearly missing my stop on the train on a regular basis. They’re crime novels – murder-mysteries, of course – but they’re more than that. The thing that got me to jump in for the first go was the slight supernatural/Gothic tinge that seemed to lurk around In The Woods. The Likeness amped up the Gothic tradition a bit – the dirty mirror on the cover, the classic trope of “the double”… it was all just-a-little-spooky. Faithful Place doesn’t, at first, seem to have the same sense of the Gothic about it. By the end, though, its there – in that same vague just-barely if-you-weren’t-looking-you-wouldn’t-see-it way.
What’s also there is French’s style. Her prose is hypnotic. It isn’t a page-turner in that sometimes artificial way, where there’s a cliffhanger that just propels you forward – but you tear through the book because it flows so effortlessly. So naturally. There is a sense of ease about her writing that isn’t pretentious or anything like that but rather it is simply something so ordinary that it becomes magical. Its like someone was telling you the story – that’s how it goes.
The main character this go-round is Frank Mackey,who one might remember as Cassie’s handler in The Likeness. Cassie, of course, being the former partner to Rob Ryan, star of In The Woods. The series has garnered this subtitle of “The Dublin Murder Squad” but it isn’t even really that. I don’t know, exactly, how I’d describe the loose “series” feel – but its there, nonetheless, and I love it. Taking characters and spinning them off to have their own stories – even money is on the young Detective, Steven something, to be the next starring character. Of course, a novella or something about the hilarious coroner might not be out of line, either.
I’ll admit, I was a little disappointed that Rob and Cassie didn’t have SOME kind of appearance, even in passing… but in the end, it wasn’t necessary. This novel took place in what may as well have been a whole nother world from the city we knew in the first two books. Faithful Place, in the Liberties, is the classic small-town street, where everyone knows everyone and all that. Frank Mackey, main character, managed to escape Faithful Place for nearly 22 years – but when his childhood sweetheart’s suitcase turns up… he’s pulled back in with all kinds of intrigue! Dun dun! But seriously, this is as much a family novel as it is a mystery novel. The Mackeys could rival the Westons of Osage County any day.
The universe seems to be converging for me of late, too. This novel is all about coming home and finding that, while dynamics may have shifted and people may have changed, things always seem to snap back to approximately where they were when you left. There’s a great scene where Frank and his four siblings are out on the steps and Frank reflects on how they all just gravitated to exactly where they used to sit. Another scene, later, where he and his brother Shay hide from their mother in a crowd like they were kids… that feeling of things just reverting back so easily is pretty prevalent at North Avenue these days. So, while 22 years is quite different from 4 years with a lot of breaks, I understood to an extent exactly what was happening. That, perhaps, drew me in – but that was like a cherry on top of the cake that I was already anticipating (and have been for two years).
Rating: 5 out of 5. Not much else to say, really – I wouldn’t dare spoil it. Half the fun is watching these individuals move closer to the eventual solve… but the other half is just watching them. They all feel so damn real and everything that happens feels so important and you just can’t help but love these characters and root and cheer and cry and know with them. It’s a wonderful feeling – and I hope the next two years (or however long the next book takes) fly by.