Thursday, January 27, 2011

What We're Reading: Faithful Place

I picked up Tana French's new novel, Faithful Place, a couple of weeks ago, and didn't put it down until I finished it.

This one is about undercover cop Frank Mackey, who left home at age 18 (more than 20 years ago), and never looked back. He was supposed to be leaving with Rosie, his first true love, but Rosie stood him up at their early morning meeting place, and he never saw her again. Everyone from the old neighborhood (down-at-heels Dublin) has always assumed that the two of them took off for London together; Frank assumed that Rosie decided to go without him. He made a life for himself on the Dublin police force, married (and divorced) a wife and fathered a child, and thought of Rosie with nostalgia...until the day his younger sister called him and told him that an old suitcase had been discovered in a derelict house on his old street, and both Rosie and the neighborhood called him back to solve a mystery he didn't know existed.

Ever curious to see reactions from French's other readers, I looked on to read some reviews, and as usual with French, it's running about 50-50. Half the people thought her story--protagonist, characters, background, dialects--was brilliant, while the other half wished they'd found something else to do with their time--like learn Dutch! I always fall in with the first crowd--I have seldom read a writer who brings characters more to life. This one was particularly focused on studying a place, a time, and a social strata, and I was totally immersed in it. If you like a book that takes its time to discover every aspect of its subject, Tana French is for you.

One reviewer on Amazon likened this book to Elizabeth George's What Came Before He Shot Her. I would agree, and would urge French fans who liked Faithful Place to try that one as well. Although it fits within that series, it's outside of George's usual Inspector Lynley/Barbara Havers mystery/police procedural format, instead exploring the lives of three mixed-race children who fall between the cracks in London's social services system. Depressing, but also utterly compelling.

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