Law & Order: Faithful Place

BlogHer Review

Tana French's Faithful Place is totally not the sort of book I normally read. Like, at all. I tend to favour books with young women angsting over cute boys, maybe with a shoe or a purse on the cover. But, my mother and my boyfriend really loved French’s first book (In the Woods), so I gave this one a go.

I usually prefer my crime stories to be told in hour-long TV series, so I already had some knowledge of this sort of story. At first glance, it seems like an Irish book version of Law & Order -- Detective Frank Mackey is a hard-boiled tough guy who overcame a poor childhood to become an undercover cop. He’s called back to his childhood neighbourhood when clues seem to indicate that his teenage sweetheart may have been murdered.

And this is where it suddenly becomes even more engrossing than an episode of CSI. The crime is so personal to Frank -- his relationship with the doomed Rosie basically helped create his psychology -- that we’re drawn right in there with him. French doesn’t spend a lot of time explaining the complex relationships between Frank, his parents and siblings, and the rest of the neighbourhood. Through context, we come to gradually understand the labyrinthine connections between all of the characters in the story.

This is so much more than a whodunit… and I can say that for sure, because I read the ending first and still loved it. Who killed who is really a subplot to the main narrative, which is about Frank confronting his past and coming to terms with his present circumstances. If anything, knowing who the killer is made the story even more suspenseful, waiting for Frank to figure it all out.

French, a female author, very capably gets inside the mind of the middle-aged, tough-as-nails detective. The first-person narrative allows readers to get right inside of Frank’s mind. We know why he’s acting the way he is, even if those around him don’t. Particularly effective were the scenes utilizing Frank’s undercover squad techniques to separate himself from emotional moments -- allowing him to view a scene objectively, despite the emotional toll it takes on him later.

Faithful Place is so much more than a murder mystery. It evokes a time and place with such palpable detail that I found myself taking extra-long coffee breaks as I couldn’t put the book down. I read through it in a frenzied three-day period, which is the highest compliment I can pay any book. Wholly recommended!

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