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Tana French – Faithful Place

January 11, 2012

167. Faithful Place by Tana French (2010)
Dublin Murder Squad, Book 3

Length: 442 pages
Genre: Mystery

Started: 24 December 2011
Finished: 29 December 2011

Where did it come from? Purchased from Amazon.
Why do I have it? I loved Tana French’s previous two books.
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 28 June 2011.

Getting dumped by your
teen girlfriend suddenly seems
the better option.

Summary: When Frank Mackey was 19, he made plans with his girlfriend, Rosie Daly, to escape from their poor Dublin neighborhood and run away together to England. When Rosie didn’t turn up, and Frank found a note saying that she’d gone, his heart was broken, but he left without a second thought, cutting off contact with his family and leaving Faithful Place behind without a second thought. Now he’s a detective in the Dublin Undercover squad, and has his life mostly in order, but the past isn’t done with him yet. When he gets a hysterical call from his sister, saying that they’ve found a case with Rosie’s belongings, hidden inside an abandoned house, Frank must face not only his estranged family and his old neighborhood, but also the fact that the truth around which he’s built his life – that Rosie left him and is alive and well somewhere in the world – might not be so true after all.

Review: I am not a huge reader of contemporary mysteries, but I will absolutely make an exception for Tana French’s novels. I think that’s in large part due to the fact that while they’re detective mysteries, they’re also something more – there’s a layer of story to them that focuses on the people and their relationships, not just on the dead body. However, while that was certainly true in Faithful Place, I felt like the balance was off, tipped a bit too far the other way. Frank’s relationship with his family takes up a lot of the story, but while the mystery is certainly never ignored, it also didn’t feel as well-developed and intricate as In the Woods or The Likeness. It was one of those cases where I figured out what was going on fairly early on – there are a few unsubtle clues that let the rest of the mystery unravel pretty quickly. Luckily, what was going on in the rest of the story (Frank’s reaction to the investigation, and his relationships with his family) was interesting enough to keep me absorbed in the story… but I did wish the mystery had been just a little bit meatier.

Another thing that astonishes me about Tana French’s writing is how effortlessly she seems to be able to slip in and out of her characters, providing a completely distinct yet still lyrical voice for each of her narrators. (I’m sure it’s actually very hard work, but it’s amazing how effortless it seems.) It’s immediately apparent that this is Frank’s book, and Frank’s voice is as different from Cassie’s and Rob’s voices as they were from each other. But in every case, French manages to capture not only the atmosphere but also the mindset and rhythms of speech of her characters just perfectly.

Faithful Place is my least favorite of French’s books so far, but that’s still high praise, given how absolutely brilliant I thought In the Woods and The Likeness were. I found it completely engrossing and extremely well-written, but the mystery didn’t have quite the same punch, and the story didn’t have quite the same emotional impact as the others. 4 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: French’s books are related to each other via recurring characters, but they’re only a series in the very loosest sense; Faithful Place, in particular, stands perfectly well on its own. All three, though, are recommended for anyone who likes mysteries, particularly those with heart-wrenching characters and elegant writing.

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Other Reviews: Plenty of ’em over at the Book Blog Search Engine.
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First Line: In all your life, only a few moments matter.

Vocab: (see the whole list)

  • p. 52: “It had worked out well for her, in the end: she had the same knock-your-eye-out figure as Rosie, getting soft around the edges but still va-va-voom, the kind of figure you don’t see any more now that girls starve themselves into size zero and permanent narkiness.” – Irritated, in a bad mood; disparaging.
  • p. 75: ““She won’t ring anyone, not till she’s called round to Mrs. Daly and got all the sca.”” – An Irish term for News. It’s abbreviated from scandal.
  • p. 84: “The tech made weaselly noises about search warrants, till I informed him that any possible suspect would have been an intruder on the premises and therefore could have had no expectation of privacy, and – when he kept whining – that in any case the house had been in public use for at least thirty years and therefore counted as a de facto public place by right of seisin, no warrant needed.” – feudal possession of an estate in land
  • p. 172: “Someone had thrown my da a nixer of his own that week: four days’ plastering work, no need to tell the dole.” – a spare-time job
  • p. 213: “I flipped out a half-full naggin of vodka, took a swig and offered it to Jackie.” – A small bottle of alcoholic spirits. Usually 200ml.
  • p. 295: ““The little gurriers were calling things after her on the street, all the aul’ ones were waiting for her to turn up in trouble, half her friends weren’t allowed speak to her in case she turned them into hoors as well; Father Hanratty gave a homily about loose women weakening the country, and that wasn’t what the men died for in 1916.”” –
    Irish synonym for corner-boy or hooligan. Usually applies to teenagers and younger kids.
  • p. 400: ““If this dinner burns on me I swear I’ll malavogue the pair of yous!”” – to treat or punish severely

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. January 11, 2012 12:40 pm

    One of these days I really must read French. I have her books on my TBR pile.

  2. January 12, 2012 9:27 am

    I’ve had French’s first book for what feels like forever. I need to get with it and get it read. I don’t think I’ve read a bad thing about her writing.

  3. January 13, 2012 7:49 am

    I call little kids HOOLIGANS all the time. Gurriers doesn’t quite have the same ooomph but I’ll give it a try. And I need a new nixer, too, please.

    I could be ready for another TanaFrench book. I’m spreading them out well – I think I missed her in 2011.

  4. January 13, 2012 8:48 pm

    I adore her books – and like you, the way she makes each one a completely different first-person voice amazes me. Can’t wait for Broken Harbour this summer!

  5. January 14, 2012 10:13 pm

    Tana French is one of those authors I keep seeing mentioned around the blogosphere, but I still haven’t read! Maybe it’s about time I read one of her books.

  6. January 15, 2012 9:01 am

    I haven’t read this one yet but love me some Tana French.


  1. 2012: #15 – Faithful Place (Tana French) | Confessions of a Bibliophile

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