Tana French, “Faithful Place”

I always knew I was going to drop everything to gulp Faithful Place down in one or two sittings. That’s just the way Tana French operates on me. And on a few other people as well. I try not to read reviews of books I’m going to be blogging about but I couldn’t resist reading Janet Maslin in the New York Times, and I imagine that’ll move a few thousand units.

So we’re all going to be very bummed, not because the book is bad but because it’s good, and it’s disturbing. Here’s the thing: I’ve been worrying  recently (see the entry for Craig Johnson’s Junkyard Dogs) about the toll these murder mysteries take on the detectives. They get seriously dinged up, physically and psychically. Tana French goes everybody one better, though: at the end of her books, the detective is so wrecked she can’t even use him/her again. This time around it’s Frank Mackey, who in The Likeness was head of the Undercover squad. Clearly, this is a man with a special line in duplicity. Actually, French has gone and imagined for him a past right out of an Irish play like The Beauty Queen of Leenane. Family dysfunction that would do your head in, as they say over there. “Da said, ‘Little whoremasters, the lot of yous.’ I think he meant it in a nice way.” That’s the way those Mackeys talked to each other. And that, children, is the teeny tiny little tip of the iceberg.

But Frank thinks he’s escaped the drink and the violence and the poverty and the unemployment. He left home, went to police college, married up, had a child. But he’s no good to Tana French just peacefully doing his job, so she curls a lash around his neck and yanks him back to Faithful Place where his family lives in the same house and the girl who jilted him 22 years earlier turns up dead. I haven’t given away much, by the way. That’s bad enough, but there are more and bigger emotional land mines waiting for Frank. Honestly, what French puts him through — I don’t know how you write this stuff.

So I’m going to think about something else. One of the qualities of The Likeness that I adored was its glamour. It has a real Rebecca vibe.So I was interested to read in the New York Times yesterday (OK, it’s my hometown paper, I read it very thoroughly sometimes) about a professor named Alice Friedman. She  just wrote a book called American Glamour about modern American architecture. Here’s what she has to say: “So much about glamour is about aspiration and appearance, staging what you want to be, like Gatsby. …. and what is the true you, and will that be discovered?”

I would have said that Faithful Place was un-glamourous but using Friedman’s definition, I’m wrong. It’s actually the story of Frank Mackey ripping off his mask. Ouch.

About carolwallace

I spend most of my time writing and reading. Most recent publications: the reissue of "To Marry an English Lord,"one of the inspirations for "Downton Abbey," and the historical novel "Leaving Van Gogh." I am too cranky to belong to a book group but I love the book-blogging community.
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9 Responses to Tana French, “Faithful Place”

  1. Katherine Fuller Mendez says:

    Dear Carol, I can’t wait to read FAITHFUL PLACE. Unlike you, I resisted reading anything about it. I disagree with Alice Friedman’s comments about glamour. Can’t one aspire to something which becomes a reality?

  2. carolwallace says:

    You may be right, Katherine, about glamour — but don’t you think that for it to have the power that it does, there must be a dark underpinning? I don’t think we’d be so fascinated if it were all sunny and cheerful and above-board.

    And if the hook isn’t that sense of mystery and potential duplicity, what is it? I don’t know myself. I’m just posing the question.

  3. fern jacoby says:

    Please sign me up with my new e-mail address. I don’t want to miss one blog. They are just fabulous and I have ordered and read many fine books via your recommendations.

    Thank you,

    Fern Jacoby

  4. carolwallace says:

    Fern, I am so happy that you like “Book Group of One.” I can’t subscribe you, though: you do that yourself, on the right-hand column where it says “Email subscription.” Then it will just appear in your inbox every time I post! Thanks so much for your interest — Carol

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