Fiction – print. Viking, 2010. 400 pgs. Purchased.
In 1985, Frank Mackey stood on around the corner of the Faithful Place flats in Dublin waiting for his girlfriend, Rosie Daly, to appear. For weeks, he and Rosie had cobbled together a plan to run away to London together where they planned to marry against the wishes of Rosie’s parents and, hopefully, break the cycle of poverty and alcoholism that marked their – read Frank’s – lives in Ireland.
Yet Rosie never showed. Assuming Rosie had wised up after witnessing his family’s latest round of violent dysfunction on the streets of Faithful Place, Frank joined the Guards and vowed never to return. It’s a vowed he is forced to break when, twenty-two years later, Rosie’s suitcase is found behind a fireplace in a derelict house on Faithful Place, shattering his assumption that she had left for England without him.
This is the third novel in French’s Dublin Murder Squad series, but it could easily be read a standalone novel. It has been seven years since I read the second book in the series, The Likeness, but I neither recall Francis featuring in that story nor did I mention him in my review. Other than the Dublin location, there doesn’t seem to be much connection between this story and the third; Frank, or Francis to his cantankerous Mammy, is a member of the Undercover squad rather than the Murder squad.
I was glad to find one other common thread between this book and the others in French’s series: her ability to craft a vibrant and vivid atmosphere. Her descriptions of the fictional Faithful Place conjured up memories from my 2014 trip to Dublin, and I often felt like I was back in the local pub eavesdropping on the boisterous conversations happening around me.
I could hear the dialogue quirks as I turned the pages, and it felt particularly authentic during a moment between Frank and his four siblings on the stoop of his parents’ home. The more time Frank spent in Faithful Place, the more quirks employed in his outer dialogue and inner monologues, which served to underline Frank’s fears that coming home would drag him back into a situation he chose to leave.
The story also moved seamlessly from the present to the past in a series of flashbacks, allowing the reading to understand Frank’s relationship with Rosie and with his community better. The people of Faithful Place played into stereotypes about the Irish during the 1980s, and the tidbits about their situations today plays into Frank’s nature-vs-nurture angst as he tries to keep his distance from the place.
Despite my praise of French’s writing, there is a part of me disappointed with this case. The suspect list was quite narrow from the beginning, and I was set to accuse the eventually revealed culprit as soon as the second possible murder occurred.
I’m not sure if French tipped her hand too early, but it made the investigation into Rosie’s disappearance less of a draw for me, which seemed to drag out far too long. Thankfully, Frank’s complicated family dynamics and his daughter’s scheme to meet her parental grandparents were enough to keep the novel engaging once the intrigue over the murder case abated.