Faithful Place

I am totally in love with Tana French–as a writer, of course! She absolutely rocks my socks off! I discovered her about 2 years ago when I read her first novel, In the Woods. I promptly bought her second one The Likeness and devoured it as well.

Since then, I’d been eagerly awaiting the release of her third novel, Faithful Place–which has been touted as her best. I just finished reading it last week, and while I do agree that it’s fantastic, I think I love The Likeness the most. …but I’ll get back to that in a minute. Let’s talk a little about Tana French and the other 2 novels first.

French is an amazing writer. She’s prolific with crafting character- and plot-driven novels that are beautifully written. Each of her works are of the psychological thriller/murder mystery genre, but they really do center around the characters so much that I find myself just as eager to find out “who did it” as to find out why the main character is behaving the way she/he is. Some of French’s critics claim that parts of her plot are unbelievable; however, with the way she writes and how she develops her characters, it’s easy to look past any discrepancies. Besides, what’s “believable” now? Vampires? Science Fiction? 

In the Woods centers around Detective Rob Ryan, with Cassie Maddox playing a major role as well. The Likeness centers around Cassie Maddox from French’s first novel. Faithful Place centers around Frank Mackey, who was a minor character in The Likeness. Rumor is that one of the minor characters from Faithful Place will be the lead character in French’s fourth novel. I really love the way French takes a character from her previous novel and highlights them in her subsequent novel. However, each work stands alone. It is not at all necessary to read these books in any kind of order; they are not a series.

In the Woods is a mystery about a 12-year old girl found murdered at a local archeological dig in Dublin, Ireland. Detective Rob Ryan and his partner, Cassie Maddox, discover that there are similarities between the girl’s murder and the disappearance 20 years before of two children from the same neighborhood who were Ryan’s best friends. Only Maddox knows Ryan was involved in the 1984 case. The plot climaxes when Maddox interrogates a potential suspect, and the reader is floored by the eventual identity and motives of the killer.

Faithful Place is a mystery that involves Frank Mackey’s past (French is an expert at blending “whodunit” elements with familial demons and ghosts from years past) coming back to haunt him. When he was 19, he and his girlfriend Rosie Daly made secret plans to escape Faithful Place (their Dublin neighborhood) and his hard-drinking, highly dysfunctional family. They were going to elope to England. However, Rosie doesn’t meet Frank the night they’re meant to leave and he finds a note instead, and assumes she’s left him behind. So he leaves Faithful Place and never looks back. For 22 years, Frank–who becomes an undercover cop–has never returned to Faithful Place. Until he receives a phone call from his sister Jackie, telling him that Rosie’s suitcase has been found in an abandoned house in Faithful Place–the very house they had planned to meet to run away together. Frank returns, and everything he thought he knew is turned upside down: did Rosie really leave that night? Did someone intercept her before she could get to him?

Faithful Place is absolutely a fantastic novel! I highly recommend it.

The Likeness is probably my favorite of French’s novels. At least so far. But Faithful Place is a close second. I think the reason this one beats out Faithful Place is because I struggle a bit with all the family dynamics and dysfunction. French does such a good job bringing it to life! Which is an awesome testament to her as a writer. But it’s a little tough to read. I feel like I’m there–experiencing it all–right next to (or instead of) Frank Mackey. No wonder he wanted to escape with Rosie!

I love The Likeness because of the undercover aspect. Cassie Maddox goes undercover to live as Lexie Madison, who was stabbed to death. When the body of Lexie was discovered, she and Cassie are virtual twins. Since there are no suspects and no leads, it gets reported to the police that the victim survived the stabbing. This leaves Cassie to step into the dead woman’s life as a graduate student and housemate of four other students. The book is full of all kinds of tension and mystery as Cassie takes on the pressures of investigating Lexie’s death from the inside while having to convince her housemates that she is–in fact–Lexie. There is drama and suspense all around as her identity and motives are called into question. French does an excellent job at weaving the story and bringing both Cassie and Lexie to life.

If you like a good book–or good writing in general–and you don’t mind being captivated by a good story (!!), then I recommend you pick up one (or all) of Tana French’s novels. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

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