The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

February 26, 2011

Phyllis Seesengood, book review: Undercover detective searches for lost love

By Phyllis Seesengood
Globe Columnist

JOPLIN, Mo. — “Faithful Place”

 By Tana French (audiobook)

Frank Mackey spent his childhood in a tenement on a street called Faithful Place, a poverty-ridden slum in Dublin. The flats were so close together that everyone knew their neighbors’ business.

Frank’s dysfunctional family consisted of an alcoholic and abusive father, a domineering and critical mother, and two sisters and two brothers. None of them liked each other very much.

As the novel opens, Frank is waiting outside No. 16 Faithful Place for Rosie Daly. The young couple have been carrying on a secret romance for several months. They plan to elope in London to get away from their families and create a better life.

Frank waited patiently for Rosie at the appointed meeting place, but she never appeared. He gave up after he found a note that made it sound as if Rosie had changed her mind and gone to London without him. Frank went ahead, took the plunge, left his family that night, and went to live in different area of Dublin.

Flash forward 22 years: Frank is now an undercover detective with the Dublin Murder Squad. He was married to Olivia, a successful young lawyer, but they are now divorced and have a 9-year-old daughter named Holly. Frank has never wanted to expose Holly to his dysfunctional family, so he has never taken her to meet them.

Frank’s peaceful existence is shattered one evening when he receives a frantic call from his sister Jackie, the only member of his family with whom he has kept in touch during his 22-year absence. Jackie tells him that Rosie’s suitcase has been discovered in flat No. 16, Faithful Place.

Despite his misgivings about returning to his childhood home and his dread at seeing his family after all these years, Frank wants to know what happened to Rosie. Is she alive as he has always assumed, or did something happen to her to keep her from meeting him that fateful night?

Frank calls the police about the suitcase, but the police inform him that he cannot take part in the investigation into Rosie’s disappearance. After all, if there was foul play, he could be the prime suspect.

However, he does manage to manipulate a young detective, Stephen Moran, into doing some investigative work for him. With Stephen’s aid, Frank manages to put the pieces of the 22-year-old puzzle together.

Tana French has written a powerful psychological crime story. It is more of a literary story, not a typical fast-paced thriller  but it is still a tale that makes it hard to press “stop” on the CD player.

A master at storytelling, French vividly describes a dark and creepy Dublin and provides dimension to the characters. French’s use of first-person narration by Frank works very well in this novel. The tension builds as Frank gets closer to the truth.

The use of Irish accents and dialogue by the audiobook’s narrator, Tim Gerard Reynolds, contributes enormously to the story. This is the second time I have listened to “Faithful Place” in audio format, and I highly recommend it.

The novel is available in compact disc, Playaway, and book formats at the Joplin Public Library. I just finished listening to French’s “In the Woods” and I am just starting “The Likeness,” which has already hooked me. The three novels comprise the Dublin Murder Squad series. Tana French is an extremely talented author, and her novels are quite addictive.

Phyllis Seesengood is the technical services librarian at Joplin Public Library.