And You Thought YOU Had Family Issues

BlogHer Review

Thank you, Tana French. I love carrying a book that I can recommend, especially when my favorite Greek restaurant owner asks if she'll be happy taking it along while she drops her sophomore off at school. "She won't need me; will this keep me from boredom?" Oh,yes it will.Faithful Place is so much more than a mystery, than a family drama, than a divorce tale.  So very much more.

This is the third in a series of Irish police procedurals. I'd not read the first two; it didn't matter.  Faithful Place does quite well as a stand-alone story.  There are no oblique references to cases gone by (if they were there, they were well-disguised) and no character quips alluding to long-ago-told tales.  Crisply written and beautifully edited this who-dunnit offers a dysfunctional family wrapped around  a beautiful love story.

The family is a nightmare, the grown children are furious with one another. Still, they "fit together like pieces of a jigsaw."  Long simmering anger, shattered dreams, drunken rampages -- Tana French comes right up to the edge and leaves you there, with her protagonist, teetering on the brink of disaster.

Francis Mackey balances his daughter, his siblings and his job as searches for the truth about his long lost love.  Had she ditched him?  Was he unworthy?  Could he never escape his past?  The facts are doled out stingily, and, in fact, there aren't that many of them to be had.  Like most family dramas, it's a little thing which grew bigger and bigger as the layers of secrecy built up.

There are startling passages where the truth seems to peek around the edges.  French leads you down a path of certainty until she trips you up at the end.  This artichoke is unfurling slowly, and not all the leaves benefit from a dousing in butter.  Francis is drawn deeper and deeper into the mystery as his 9 year old daughter is drawn deeper and deeper into his birth family's life, a life he'd spent more than 2 decades avoiding like the plague.

The similarities between the siblings reveal themselves slowly, allowing French to fill in the spaces of her mystery with human connections.  There's not a lot of action in this book; the characters spend a lot of time driving to and from meeting one another.  Their personal lives, though, are "going 90."  Drop a formerly absent sibling into the mix and there are sure to be fireworks.  

Parenting is explored by example, and so are the lives and work habits of detectives.  Mysteries are my favorite genre; I've read more than the average bear has done.  In all these years, I've never understood the difference betwen an Undercover and a Murder cop with the precision I found here.  Tana French knows her stuff.

Her writing is as beautiful as her story telling.  "(t)he Hearnes' looked like someone had fired Santa's grotto at it out of a bazooka" pretty much sums up Christmas on Faithful Place in the same way that "(t)he tea was strong enough to reach out of the pot and give you a punch" tells you all you need to know about breakfast chez Mackey.  French is not averse to bringing us up close and personal to her characters.  Frances "felt that sudden, treacherous flood of affection" not only towards his daughter but toward the young cop he co-opts into helping him solve the case. 

There are lazy cops and gossipy neighbors and old friends who've made bad choices -- this is a morality play in 400 pages. There are consequences to your actions, and French leaves no stone unturned in pointing them out to us.  She is deep and profound and, at the end, like Shay, she "could see right to the bottom of me, without even trying, and without a single corner left hidden or a single question left unanswered along the way."

That is a very satisfying way to end a novel of any kind.  In a mystery, it counts as perfection.

Yes, I recommend that you read this book. I am going out to buy the first two in this series right now. 

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