Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Faithful Place ~ Tana French

I'm back from chilly, chilly Wisconsin!  Only to find that New Jersey got rather cold in my absence.  But it was nice to sleep in my own bed!  Faithful Place is another one of those books I completed last year and have only now gotten around to reviewing on the blog, though I think that I'm finally caught up through 2012 so that's a win!  For the uninitiated, Faithful Place is the third book in Dublin Murder Squad series so if you missed them, click the links for my review of In the Woods (the first book) and The Likeness (the second book).
In Faithful Place, Frank Mackey, who you'll remember as the douchey undercover detective responsible for Cassie's mission in The Likeness, returns for his own story.  Frank grew up poor - Dublin slum, five kids with an alcoholic father who drinks his dole money and beats his wife, and an unhealthy dislike of the guards poor - but he escaped that life 22 years before, on a night when he meant to elope to London with his girlfriend who never showed and instead just escaped to wherever he could go.  And he hasn't looked back, except to strike up a friendship with his younger sister, who is not allowed to talk about him to the rest of the family.  In the meantime, Frank joined the guards as an undercover detective, married, had a kid, got divorced, and is generally happy with his life.  Until the day his sister calls to say that they've found his girlfriend's old suitcase, and it turns out she didn't leave him after all...

Frank was a really interesting character, though that's not to say that I like him.  He was adorable with his daughter, Holly, and I could really see and believe in his struggle to be a good dad and raise a good kid while battling his own demons.  Those parts were just great.  Plus, he's a feminist, which I loved:

I've always loved strong women, which is lucky for me because once you're over about twenty-five there is no other kind. Women blow my mind. The stuff that routinely gets done to them would make most men curl up and die, but women turn to steel and keep on coming. Any man who claims he's not into strong women is fooling himself mindless; he's into strong women who know how to pout prettily and put on baby voices, and who will end up keeping his balls in her makeup bags.

Truth!  However, Frank is incredibly manipulative.  He has a great mind for understanding people's reactions and motivations, but twists that and uses it to his own advantage.  In my review of In the Woods, I said that the psychopathy of detectives was an underlying theme.  French doesn't actually use the word in Faithful Place, but it's there as well - Frank is disturbing in how easily and carelessly he uses and abuses.  It was impossible to like him - his overall intentions may have been good, but he just took it too far and not just with suspects - with everybody in his life, except maybe his daughter.

As with the rest of the series, I really appreciated the social commentary, which is even more obvious in Faithful Place, which takes place post-recession and is mostly set in the inner city.  For that same reason, Frank's family was a treat - I sure wouldn't want them for my family (except maybe his sisters and younger brother), but they sure were interesting and entertaining.  The family dynamic - of overt abuse masking underlying love - was most apparent in the character of Frank's mother, who was absolutely hilarious but so cruel.

Unlike her last two books, French actually gives us all the answers in this one, which should appease people who require such things, though once again that's not the point of the book.  The answers were actually pretty obvious, but the killer's motivations and Frank's behavior around the discovery of the truth are what really matter here.  Again, there's love masked by hate twisting the situation, which was so apt - we all have those relationships, not just people with such severely dysfunctional families.

That said, this wasn't my favorite book of the series so far - In the Woods still holds this honor.  This was probably the most believable murder though, and far more realistic than The Likeness.  French did a much better job containing her prose in this novel than in the last two (though the end still dragged unnecessarily), and I was definitely hooked, but I just wasn't as convinced by Frank as by the last two protagonists, probably because French spent so much less time going through his emotions.  Yeah, we get his baggage, but some of his responses are a bit of a mystery to me.

Overall though, this was a great book, and prompted me to immediately pick up Broken Harbor, whose reviews are the reason I started this series in the first place.  I've already finished that, so hopefully I'll get a review up before 2014.  And then I wait for book five, because Tana French has me hooked.

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