Satisfying mysteries come in two flavors. The first kind of engaging mystery is driven by the plot – the twists, turns and surprising character developments keep you guessing throughout the entire novel. It’s like a brain teaser, or LSAT logic game, in reading form. The second kind of engaging mystery is plot driven, focusing heavily on the major characters, their backgrounds, their motivations and their particular circumstances. All of Tana French’s novels, especially Faithful Place, fall into the second category.
Frank Mackey escaped his poor Irish neighborhood more than twenty years ago, abandoning his family to become an undercover cop after his high school girlfriend Rosie Daly left him a break up note the night they were supposed to run away together to a better life. Or so he thought. Twenty years later, Rosie’s suitcase turns up in the run down neighborhood building where Frank and Rosie were supposed to meet, and Frank sets in on figuring out what happened to Rosie, and whether or not she left him.
The Mackey family dynamic drives the book. The Mackey family consists of five kids, an alcoholic abusive father, and a mother almost entirely concerned with keeping up appearances. Reunited for the first time in twenty years, the worst adolescent behaviors, jealousies and grudges reemerge in Frank’s siblings.
Overall, I found Faithful Place a little inconsistent. Many of the actions the characters took stood in direct opposition to their underlying motivations, and I kept wondering why they hadn’t thought any of their actions through.
That being said, Faithful Place is a great mystery. However, if you’re going to delve into French’s novels, start with In the Woods or The Likeness. Her books are generally sinister; her main characters are frequently creepy – and that was missing from this particular book.