Faithful Place

by Tana French

Ultimately, all murder mysteries are about justice. It may not be possible to right wrongs.  It may not even be the courts that mete out the justice.

In the end, whether a mystery focuses on the who, the how or the why, the wrong-doer is punished. In this book, the justice comes at such a high price, the roles of avenger and murderer are a breath apart.

In Faithful Place, the ties of family and circumstance bind to the point of suffocation. No member of undercover cop Frank Mackey’s family is untouched by hatred, guilt, fear, frustration or love.

Twenty years before this story opens, Mackey and his girlfriend Rosie Daly planned to elope to England to start new lives. Frank waits hours for Rosie at the appointed place. When she never shows, he goes into the abandoned tenement where she was supposed to retrieve her hidden suitcase. He finds a note that makes him think she left without him. He leaves home that night alone to create a new life in Dublin as far from his family as he can get.

He becomes an undercover cop. He marries, has a daughter (Holly), and divorces. A call from his younger sister, Jackie, informs him that a suitcase has been found in a building being torn apart for its vintage fixtures. The suitcase is Rosie’s.

In Tana French’s hands, the Mackey family is laid open with a scalpel. The dead are avenged but at such an enormous price the line between murderer and avenger, victim and judge, blur.

Faithful Place, published in 2010, is part of French’s “Dublin Murder Squad” books, a series of mysteries with interlocking characters working in law enforcement in Dublin. Mackey appeared earlier as a key character in The Likeness; Mackey and his daughter Holly are secondary characters in The Secret Place; Detective Stephen Moran who has a small part in Faithful Place, has a key role in The Secret Place and later in The Trespasser; murder detective Mick “Scorcher” Kennedy who investigates what happened to Rosie Daly in Faithful Place takes the spotlight in Broken Harbor. Detective Antoinette Conway, who with Moran solves the murder in The Secret Place, is the primary investigator in The Trespasser.

Her characters often blend ruthless strength with aching vulnerability.  Her plots are unexpected, twisted and completely credible.

It was listed among Notable Selections in an article on on the 10 best crime novels of the last decade.

The Author: Tana French

French, born in the United States in 1973, grew up in Ireland, Italy, the United States and Malawi.  Her father, David French, was an economist working on resource management in the developing world. She’s lived in Dublin since 1990.  She trained as an actress at Trinity College and has worked in theater, film and voiceovers.

Her first book, In the Woods, won the Edgar, Anthony, Macavity and Barry awards for best first novel.

  • In the Woods (2007): Detective Rob Ryan and his partner Cassie Maddox are called out to investigate the murder of a 12-year-old girl found in the woods of a Dublin suburb. Twenty years earlier, Ryan and other children had been playing in the woods on a summer evening.  When called home for dinner, three children don’t come in. Ryan is found clinging to a tree in terror, wearing blood-filled sneakers and unable to recall the events of the past several hours.
  • The Likeness (2008): Detective Cassie Maddox is asked to go under cover by Mackey when a murder victim with an uncanny likeness to Maddox is discovered. The dead woman is carrying a Dublin University identification card with a name that Maddox had used in an earlier undercover job for Mackey. Her role in the current investigation is to pretend to be the victim (falsely said to have been saved by emergency responders), and find out who among the victim’s associates killed her.
  • Broken Harbor (2012): Detective Mick “Scorcher” Kennedy is the ambitious, rule-respecting, positive thinker who is a foil to Frank Mackey’s street-savvy improvisational undercover cop in Faithful Place. A misstep in his handling of the murder in Faithful Place has tarnished his reputation. But he’s ready to reclaim his top-dog solve rate when he is  assigned to a triple homicide in a faltering planned community. Lost jobs, an underwater mortgage on an unsellable house, a drive to keep up appearances and isolation from family and friends create a perfect storm that ends in the murder of an unemployed father and two children and severe injuries to the wife. The place, where Kennedy’s own family once vacationed, scrapes open old fears and guilts. In true French fashion, this book asks terrible questions about how justice should best be served and who should do the sentencing.
  • The Secret Place (2014): Detective Frank Mackey and his now 16-year-old daughter Holly take the stage again in this investigation of the murder of the handsome and popular Christopher Harper on the grounds of exclusive girl’s school, St. Kilda’s, the year before. Holly brings a card captioned “I know who killed him” to Detective Stephen Moran, which reopens the investigation of Harper’s murder. Moran appeared in Faithful Place as a cop temporarily assigned to the investigation of Rosie Daly’s disappearance. Mackey used Moran’s desire to get from the temp pool to the murder squad to make sure the real killed was brought to trial. Now Mackey is a protective father as Moran and his partner Antoinette Conway circle more and more closely around Holly and her three close friends, two of whom were sexually or emotionally involved with the murdered boy.
  • The Trespasser (2016): Conway and Moran are called out to what appears to be yet another domestic violence case. An anonymous man has called in for an ambulance to assist a woman who had fallen and hit her head. But when the detectives arrive they find the doors locked, the table set for a special dinner for two, candles sputtered out, the smell of burned meat and the body of a dead woman by a blazing fire. The relentless pressure that Conway feels as the sole woman on the murder squad, the hazing, the night shifts and her own frustrated ambitions are turning her into a bitter, burned-out and paranoid detective. But paranoia is as thick in this homicide as fog.



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