Wednesday, October 10, 2018

More Irish: "Faithful Place" by Tana French

Heard: Faithful Place by Tana French, 2010, download from Wisconsin Digital Library.

Third in French's series about Dublin police detectives. This one focuses on Frank Mackey who appeared in the previous novel. Frank is still the same asshole from book #2, The Likeness. We get an understanding of why he is an asshole. But, he is still an asshole.

Frank left home at 19-years-old without telling a soul. He and his girlfriend Rosie were going to run away to England but she never showed at their Early A.M. rendezvous and Frank figured she had dumped him and left on her own with their ferry tickets.

In the present day Frank gets a call from his older sister - the only family member he speaks to - that a horrible thing has occurred and he must come to the family home at Faithful Place. Frank has been gone for 22 years but shows up and is told Rosie's suitcase has been found in a long abandoned building that is now being renovated. Well, if her suitcase is there where did Rosie go? Did she never make it to England?

We learn more and more as the novel goes on but Frank despises his family and neighborhood. His father was and is a violent drunk and forever on the dole. He and his older brother always fought. His mother is incapable of saying anything supportive or loving. His neighborhood is the Check-Out-My-New-TV-It-Fell-Of-A-Truck-And-If-You-Tell-The-Cops-Everyone-Will-Hate-You type of neighborhood.

We learn that a couple days before Frank and Rosie's planned 1988 departure that Frank's father got roaring drunk. Most of Dad's behavior was kept hidden away inside the house. His punch-ups were indoors only. But that night Dad decided to open up the long simmering feud between himself and Rosie's father. He marched down the street screaming and hollering and tried to break through the front door of Rosie's home. The event was so loud and frightening that someone actually called the cops. Called the cops?! In Faithful Place?  Wellll, that Mackey must be one horrible person and why would anyone want to marry into that family?

Frank figured that public incident with Dad was enough to scare Rosie off. Frank was so angry with his family that when Rosie never showed he figured that since he was already packed and ready to go he may as well start walking.   After a couple years on his own he went to the police college, joined the service, and only ran into his sister a few years later when he took her statement after a mugging.

Anyhoo. The story moves along and spoilers await below.

I've read and heard about growing up with alcoholics and how different people grow up under those circumstances. That is what the novel boils down to. Frank bolted and the other four siblings stayed. Three of them chose to keep keeping on and live their lives. The fourth, Seamus, just got angrier and angrier. Frank developed his own issues of never getting over Rosie's disappearance - something his wife sensed during their marriage and knows is still going on. Frank is acerbic, joking when things are tense, and enjoys causing conflict. Frank has trust issues.

After Frank reunites with the family and sees the suitcase he is ready to disappear again. But, he ends up spending time with his siblings and after talking with them figures out Rosie's body may be in the house. He is correct because the body is found, Frank is in tatters, and now the murder police are called in. Frank is not to be involve in the case but Frank is a Primo A-Hole still pining for Rosie and will get involved anyway.

French spends plenty of time on Frank and his siblings. Frank has anger to spare and spreads it around to his siblings. Frank blamed his entire family for Rosie's exit even though under his 22 year long theory it was his father to blame. But, as Frank comes back the siblings immediately fall back into old routines. Some of these behaviors are funny like when the siblings are sitting out on the front steps and immediately, and wordlessly, warn one another when their mother is coming. A brother and sister wordlessly communicate about a second brother who is being a drunken pain in the ass. An emotional sister gets eye rolls from the brothers who try to distract her onto another topic. But, Frank and his elder brother Seamus immediately bang heads. Frank's younger brother Kevin immediately starts looking up to Frank and hanging around with him.

Frank is rejoining the family after a couple decades of withheld rage. he never gave himself a chance to work through his issues. When you're regularly seeing your relatives over time you can let things fester, or demand satisfaction, or work your way to forgiveness and sanity. Instead, Frank has developed a belief that the family is as bad as a gang of murderers. When he discovers his 9-year-old daughter has been secretly visiting Faithful Place with Sister he has a shit fit. He wants his daughter far, far away from the rotten lot.

Even when Frank realizes his mistaken belief that Rose left him to avoid his family he cannot move forward. When he discovers Rosie is dead and that his family had jack all to do with it he still has plenty of anger left over.  He still sticks to how terrible things were. And aside from an angry relationship with an always angry older brother his siblings seem like pretty nice people. They went through the same crap but came out mostly okay. Even after meeting them all again and getting along - minus those usual sibling arguments - he wants to bail again on the whole family.

The story goes on and you'll likely figure out the killer early on. That's okay because Mackey is wrapped up in his own faulty memories and POV that he misses a few things.

1. There are some great lines and observations by French. Those observations feel so natural and obvious when I read them but I then realize she is writing about small things that many authors miss or have to head you over the head with. French keeps things flowing. Example: when Mackey is scaring an old neighborhood pal of Rosie's into talking she does not scream out because "Someone taught her to be quiet." French does not go into a tangent on the woman's behavior or reactions. The scene moves along and I quickly absorbed this uneasy fact.
2. The phrase "Brass Neck". I never heard the phrase before and then heard it from two different sources.  One online definition is "someone who is extremely confident about their own actions but does not understand that their behavior is unacceptable to others." I've known a few people like that but never knew a colloquialism that expressed it. The second instance is a song from 1989 that I first heard a couple weeks ago.

No comments: