Faithful Place by Tana French

Published by Hodder.

Following on the success of her previous two novels, In the Woods and The Likeness, Tana French looks set to reach an even bigger audience with Faithful Place, a novel that has received glowing praise from the press and from other crime writers.

Harlan Coben recently cited the book as one of his great Summer Reads collection – and it’s not hard to see why as, with its strong family of characters and backgrounds, this is a little ‘Coben-in-Dublin’ at times – which is no bad thing.

Harlan Coben: “French is my favorite discovery over the past year.  Beautifully written and to use movie-speak, it’s “Angela’s Ashes” meets a haunting thriller.  Lyrical and moving.”

French scored the big time with her first crime novel, In the Woods, which scooped Best First Crime novel Edgar, Macavity, Anthony and Barry awards upon release.  The Likeness followed, also to great acclaim and, whilst I was aware and owned the books, I’d yet to get to read them, so was looking forward to jumping in with Faithful Place to give me an excuse to backtrack on the first two books this summer.

Set in present day Dublin, Faithful Place is the tale of a man who is forced to return to the one place he’s tried so hard to distance himself from, Faithful Place.  Undercover cop, Frank Mackey, left his home twenty years ago and never thought he would or had any desire to return there.

He left after what was a planned escape with his then girlfriend, Rosie Daly, never happened.  Their planned rendezvous and travelling to London never happened as Rosie never showed up and Frank had always assumed that Rosie had got cold feet and had set off to London on her own – a view that was shared by all of their families and friends.

But then Frank receives a phonecall from his sister, a call that summons him back to Faithful Place.

Workers renovating some of the old houses in Faithful Place have removed fireplaces and, behind one, have found an old battered suitcase – Rosie’s suitcase.  It looks like Rosie never got away from Faithful Place after all.

Frank returns home to the claustrophobic realm of his family and his old friends there and immediately starts to re-realise all of the reasons why he’d planned to leave the first time all over again.

And then, under the floorboards in the house where the suitcase was discovered, a body is found.

Although a crime fiction novel, the crime itself seems at times to take a back seat for fairly large sections at a time, whilst concentrating on the family and how all the characters interact with each other and flashbacks to problems in their past which have led to the way they deal with each other now.  This does mean that, from time to time, I wanted the crime story to get back to centre stage and move forward a little more quickly.  But, whilst this might seem like a criticism, it also goes to show that French’s work is very different to a lot of the other crime fiction out there.  It’s not a fast paced police procedural, it doesn’t have a monstrous shadowy killer with devilish ways of offing his victims, it is a family tale, a small but dark story told large through their family history and secrets.

So, if you fancy a slow-burn change to the norm, and a book to savour this summer holiday, Faithful Place is well worth your investment of time.

Keith

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