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Book review: <i>Faithful Place</i> by Tana French

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the cover of the book

Frank Mackey runs undercover in Dublin, and runs it well. He’s firmly focussed on his present; his job, and his daughter. But his past is about to catch up with him.

The story

Frank Mackey had a tough childhood and a family that’s nothing to be proud of. In fact, the only member of his family he’s kept in touch with over the years is Jackie, his favourite younger sister. He’s tried to keep the past firmly in the past, and had succeeded, right up until the day Jackie called, hysterical, and insisted he return to his childhood street. Something had been uncovered: something that belonged firmly in his past.

When Frank was nineteen, he left the street he lived on and his entire family and started a new life for himself. That life was supposed to be in England, with the woman he knew he was going to marry, Rosie Daly. The night they’d agreed on, Rosie didn’t show up. Frank assumed she’d gone to England without him, she’d left a note to that effect, and so he headed to Dublin, heart-broken, carrying the idea of Rosie into his adulthood. But in the abandoned building down the street where Rosie and Frank used to meet clandestinely, Rosie’s suitcase is found, shoved into a chimney, with all her possessions and their tickets to England.

Frank throws himself into investigating what happened to Rosie that night, the night that changed his entire future. But not only does he have to contend with his own past, he also has to deal with a street of witnesses who now see him as a police officer, not one of their own, and his family, and all the baggage the past brings. Can Frank solve the case closest to his heart without jeopardising the fragile bonds he has with his family?

The style

I think Tana French is a hands-down, stunningly good author, and is one of those rare creatures who manages to give the crime genre a good name. Faithful Place isn’t your standard policeman’s-past-catches-up-with-him; if you found a copy of it at the airport bookstore amongst all the crime pulp you’d have to consider yourself very lucky. The storyline is as you would expect for policeman’s-past-catches-up-with-him, but French is excellent at keeping the reader guessing during the investigation process, and knows exactly how to throw a red herring into the mix while keeping it realistic.

The storyline, in this case, is secondary to the character study. Frank Mackey is a great character; well written, three dimensional, and very sympathetic while maintaining his honesty and flaws. The reader is thoroughly invested in his success, both personal and professional, and hoping that he manages to sort his life out and solve the crime. All of his relationships are beautifully portrayed; his love for his daughter Holly and sister Jackie, the sadness he feels about his inability to maintain a relationship with his ex-wife, and the complexity of guilt and frustration he feels when dealing with his estranged family all add up to a compelling read.

I have previously mentioned in other reviews that the main reason I think Tana French is such a stand out author is her sense of place, and Faithful Place is lousy with it (in a good way, obviously!) It’s Irish to the core, the characters use very distinct expressions and speech patterns which really add a great dimension. Along with the scenery and the tough nature of growing up poor in Faithful Place, the story gave me a real Love Hate vibe (Season One), and this is yet another reason the story is so stand out in the Crime genre.

Who is this book for?

Fans of Tana French won’t be disappointed. Fans of Frank Mackey as a character (this isn’t his first appearance in a Tana French novel) will appreciate the insight into his inner life. Fans of crime fiction that is a cut above American pulp will love this book.

If you like this book, you would also like...

As mentioned, Tana French is fairly prolific already, so go and grab one of her other books. Also,  you may want to try some British crime with a good sense of place, like maybe Reginald Hill.


In short

Title: Faithful Place
Author: Tana French
Publisher: Penguin
ISBN: 978-0143119494
Year published: 2011
Pages: 400
Genre(s): Crime fiction
Review Type: