By Tana French
(Blogger Note: This review was previously published in "LAMLight," the physician newsletter of the Lynchburg Academy of Medicine.)
Forty pages into this book I assumed this would be my favorite of the 2010 Edgar Nominees. The book is set in Dublin and features the mother of all dysfunctional Irish families. The main character is an undercover detective named Frank Mackey. His father is an alcoholic (surprise!) and abusive. His mother is the typical Irish mother who is a master at sending her children on guilt trips. Frank has an older and younger brother and sister. The story opens with nineteen year old Frank waiting for his girlfriend Rosie Daly. Their plan is to escape their lower class life and neighborhood by running away to London. The only problem is that Rosie never shows up. Frank finds part of a note Rosie wrote implying that she was taking off for London on her own. Young Frank leaves Faithful Place behind also, relocating in Dublin and becoming a well-respected undercover police officer. He marries, has a daughter, becomes divorced and never attempts to contact his parents or is siblings.
Twenty two years later Rosie’s suitcase is found in an abandoned home on Faithful Place. A search of the basement finds the remains of a young woman which is eventually identified as Rosie Daly. The ultimate “cold case” becomes Frank’s obsession, despite being warned by superiors to stay away from the investigation.
The plot segues from the present day back to the events leading up to Frank and Rosie’s ill-fated rendezvous twenty two years previous. Frank also reluctantly reacquaints himself with his estranged family . The list of suspects begins to narrow when Frank’s younger brother Kevin apparently jumps from an upper story window in the same abandoned house where Rosie’s body was found. The police find a tidy explanation for both deaths: Kevin was her killer and took his own life in remorse. Frank, however, is not buying any of it.
As Frank digs into his past, he finds even more “skeletons”. He narrows the field of suspects down to the unthinkable – other members of his own family.
This book is extremely well written. It could, however, have used a bit of editing. There is one whole chapter where Frank tries to explain death to his nine year old daughter which seemed unnecessary. The perpetrator of the crimes is fairly obvious early on, but the way the plot resolves at the conclusion is very clever. I thoroughly enjoyed Faithful Place.