I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
Back in 1985, Frank Mackey was nineteen, growing up poor in Dublin's inner city, and living crammed into a small flat with his family on Faithful Place. But he had his sights set on a lot more. He and Rosie Daly were all ready to run away to London together, get married, get good jobs, break away from factory work and poverty and their old lives.
But on the winter night when they were supposed to leave, Rosie didn't show. Frank took it for granted that she'd dumped him-probably because of his alcoholic father, nutcase mother, and generally dysfunctional family. He never went home again.
Neither did Rosie. Everyone thought she had gone to England on her own and was over there living a shiny new life. Then, twenty-two years later, Rosie's suitcase shows up behind a fireplace in a derelict house on Faithful Place, and Frank is going home whether he likes it or not
Getting sucked in is a lot easier than getting out again. Frank finds himself straight back in the dark tangle of relationships he left behind. The cops working the case want him out of the way, in case loyalty to his family and community makes him a liability. Faithful Place wants him out because he's a detective now, and the Place has never liked cops. Frank just wants to find out what happened to Rosie Daly-and he's willing to do whatever it takes, to himself or anyone else, to get the job done.
Have you any idea how much I want to immediately re-read Faithful Place?? Or how difficult it is not to request the fourth Dublin Murder Squad book from the library right this very second??? But I must not give in to the urge to read Tana French’s books in a continuous cycle, or I will be finished much too quickly. As it was, there was no way I could pace myself reading Faithful Place. I basically read it in two sittings—the first evening, I polished off 30%; the next day, I read one chapter during my lunch break and it has never been so difficult to put a book mark back in a book and return to work; that evening, I grabbed the book as soon as I got home and proceeded to inhale the rest of it, surfacing occasionally for a bit of dinner or a glass of water.
The magic of French’s writing for me is in the total immersion in the main character’s life. Frank Mackey, one of the prominent characters in The Likeness, is the focus of Faithful Place, and although I didn’t really warm up to him in the earlier book, I couldn’t help but care about the guy in this one. French makes each of her main characters into fully rounded, understandable people. I could almost expect to go to Dublin and find them in the pub, having a pint, much the way that people go to 221B Baker Street and expect to see Sherlock Holmes.
This is one of the beauties of French’s series—I come for the mystery, but I am dazzled by the human dynamics. As a reader, I soon realized that Frank, his brother Shay, and their Da are three peas in a pod. Highly intelligent men, trying their damnedest to escape from the grinding poverty of Faithful Place, Frank’s childhood neighbourhood. These three continuously butt heads because they are all so similar—handsome, tough, decisive, and possessing a fierce temper. Frank has escaped in a half-assed way, by running away and becoming a cop, a profession which now makes him persona non grata in his former life. The way these three men circle each other, looking for advantage, is mesmerizing.
And the writing! As Frank would say, Jaysus! It’s beautiful, even when it’s describing ugly events. The dialog is pitch perfect, the vocabulary is lovely (including the Irish idioms), and the pacing is intense. I rank Tana French right up there with Raymond Chandler for beautifully written crime fiction.
I cannot recommend this series or this book highly enough. You don’t need to read the books in order, but for the best reading experience, I would recommend it. Go, find a copy of In the Woods, and get started—you won’t regret it.