Tana French’s intriguing novel FAITHFUL PLACE is founded on the premise that you can never go home. But go home indeed is what Undercover Detective Frank Mackey is forced to do when something suspicious is uncovered in his old neighborhood. You see, back in 1985 on a cold winter eve, Frank made secret plans with his girlfriend, Rose Daly, to escape the dead-end life, poverty and dysfunctional family lives of their inner city Dublin neighborhood, Faithful Place. With a carefully planned out escape and elopement to London, Frank is uplifted by hope for once in his life. But when Rose fails to show up at the agreed upon hour and place, finding only a cryptic note, Frank assumes she has dumped him and gone on alone. Frank leaves that night, not to return for over twenty-two years. That is, until Rose’s suitcase, packed with her clothes and tickets, turns up in a derelict building in Faithful Place. Thus begins a psychological tale of mystery pitting the successful son who “escaped” against the family members who remained home and true to their duties. In addition to family tensions, Frank is shunned as an outsider and turncoat for having become a cop, constantly judged and found lacking by dozens of watching eyes and whispering lips, evaluating his every move in the neighborhood. The mystery of Rose’s fate keeps the pages turning, as well as the tense, poignant, and cruelly realistic family vignettes in this novel. The characters are so sharply portrayed, it is hard to believe they aren’t real. French has a fine ear for language as well. The dialogue and slang of the rough streets of Dublin in the mouths of these characters, although unfamiliar, is lyrical and feels right. The only weakness I could see in the story was perhaps Frank’s daughter, Holly, who at age nine seemed a bit too sophisticated and savvy for her years. Also, (no spoilers) a second body turns up and in the end, but I was not fully on board with the motivation for this murder was revealed. All told, however, French has spun another riveting tale of horrible violence, wrapped up and delivered in beautiful prose.
Tag Archives: thriller
The newest Patricia Cornwell-Kay Scarpetta crime novel is better used as a doorst0p–weighing in at a hefty 495 pages–than a novel. I nearly gave up on it after the first thirty pages, but pressed on because I have enjoyed her forensic-based investigation/police procedural dramas in the past. The story takes place over the course of one day, when medical examiner Kay Scarpetta, recovering from the flu, is called to investigate a body left on the MIT campus. Together with her former employee, now police inspector Marino, they engage in solving who this woman is and whether she could be related to a series of murders taking place in Washington DC. The DC serial murders are being handled by Scarpetta’s crime profiler husband, Benton, who suspects a high-level conspiracy is afoot–one that involves falsifying evidence and crime records. Sounds promising, but instead of relying on the tried-and-true formula of the past, emphasizing the forensic science, the criminal profiling and police investigation, the majority of this novel is Scarpetta fretting over her relationship with her former parter, her relationship with her difficult yet brilliant niece, and her concern over her husband becoming too involved with getting into the heads of the serial killers. On top of which, Cornwell alludes to Scarpetta just having come from the atrocity at Newtown, Connecticut, and how it effected her. I found that aspect of the story distasteful–almost as if she were profiting from the tragedy there by using it so soon and in a not very well conceived novel. The story is dull, repetitive, and flush with errors. The whole book may have been improved with a strong, impartial editing. Within the context of Russian organized crime, she talked about drugs coming from the Soviet Union. That sent me scurrying back to check the copy write date. It just felt like a first draft, full of descriptions and ruminations by the main character that did not advance the plot in any way and should have been deleted. This makes me wonder how robust the editing is on a wildly successful author like Cornwell, or any popular author for that matter. Does the publisher give her more free rein, knowing that the book will sell just by virtue of Cornwell’s name on the cover? Besides the thin plot line, there were threads of the story that were never tied up, and the characters were all distasteful and self-absorbed, topped off by a very unsatisfying ending. Well, I believe I’ll pass on any future Cornwell novels, and judging by other Amazon reviews, so are many others.
In the mailbox today I found a wonderful surprise: a gift of a book, signed by the author, from a friend who had moved back home to Maine. It turns out I had discovered a great, new author whose specialty was writing mystery/thrillers which take place in Maine. I turned her on to the writer, and lo and behold, he was at a local book signing (and I was the lucky recipient). The gift book is one I have not read: “Bad Little Falls” by Paul Doiron. The beauty of Doiron’s writing is that he has the ability to create a sense of place to the point that the locale is nearly a character in itself, but he does not sentimentalize Maine. He can describe the beauty and awe that is Maine, but also the grit, and poverty, and cruelty of nature. My friend, Margaret, who went to hear the author speak, wrote me an interesting note about his readership: Doiron, who had just given a talk at a local high school (kudos for him doing that) is credited with getting more young men to read, because before they were just not seeing anyone like themselves in most literature. Writers who set their stories in Maine are often times seasonal visitors, who focus on the pretty, coastal areas. Doiron’s newly-won readers had no problem with his portrayal of the poorer, rougher side of the Down Easters. His stories all feature a main game warden, Mike Bowditch, who has had his share of troubles in life. I read an earlier work of Doiron’s, “The Poacher’s Son” which provided the background on this character’s dark upbringing. All that aside, the author is capable of spinning a good mystery, full of well-rounded characters and always an interesting setting. Looking forward to diving into “Bad Little Falls.”