No two persons ever read the same book. --Edmund Wilson

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

2011/39: Faithful Place -- Tana French

All my signposts had gone up in one blinding, dizzying explosion: my second chances, my revenge, my nice thick anti-family Maginot line. Rosie Daly dumping my sorry ass had been my landmark, huge and solid as a mountain. Now it was flickering like a mirage and the landscape kept shifting around it, turning itself inside out and backwards: none of the scenery looked familiar any more. (p.121)

The third novel by Tana French, author of Into the Woods and The Likeness: I confess I didn't like this as much as the previous two, but it's still considerably better than most of the crime novels I've read in the last year or so.

Frank Mackey, a minor character in the previous novels, takes centre stage for this reopening of a cold case. Frank, one of five children growing up in a poor Catholic household in the 1980s, planned as a teenager to elope to England with his girlfriend Rosie Daly. But Rosie never showed up at their rendezvous -- a deserted house in Faithful Place, the street where they both lived -- and Frank was left with a few scribbled words of farewell that might not even have been meant for him.

Twenty years pass. Frank leaves anyway; grows up, joins the police, rises to a senior position in the Murder squad, marries Olivia and had a daughter, Holly. He's more or less estranged from his family, but when his sister Jackie phones him in a panic he returns to the house where he grew up.

Rosie's suitcase has been found, and suddenly it seems likely that she never left at all ...

If this were simply a tale of a murdered teenager it would still be a compelling read: Tana French levers a great deal more into Faithful Place, from an examination of the dark underside of the myth about 'poor but cheerful' Irish family life (alcoholism, violence, feuds that last for generations) to the ways in which tragedy freezes the heart: the ways in which losing Rosie has defined Frank Mackey's life. Most of all, perhaps, it's about the impossibility of escape: escape from your roots, escape from your family, escape from what's happened to you.

I was 90% sure that I'd identified the murderer about halfway through: it's a mark of French's deftness with detail that I wasn't entirely sure until the revelation. (And then, of course, as in the previous books, French doesn't stop as soon as the crime's solved: she explores the consequences. There are no easy answers here, no scatheless escapes.)

Compelling and beautifully written, but read one of French's other novels first or you won't appreciate the scope of her talent.

No comments:

Post a Comment