Faithful Place

Recommendation: Oh go on, it’s only grand

Where to read: Holiday obviously

Read with: Teeling Single Grain

In brief: Crime fiction is more my mother’s thing than mine, but this is great – well written, entertaining and with a twist you probably won’t see coming.

Crime fiction has not typically been my preferred holiday/relaxation reading (I’m more of a fantasy fiction girl) but on the recommendation of some discerning friends turned book-pushers, my most recent holiday was consumed by Tana French’s assorted works. I have no regrets about this.

Faithful Place is a great read – suspenseful, tightly plotted, chock full of authentic characters and rich in entertainingly Irish dialogue. French has also made the inspired choice to keep it geographically confined to one pressure cooker, Dublin-poor enclave. Similarly, most of the key figures are drawn from one (admittedly large) family, including our main character, undercover cop and bit-of-a-prick Frank Mackey. There is a wonderfully drawn contrast between Frank’s loud, sometimes openly antagonistic, sometimes loving interactions with his parents and siblings, and the contained passive aggression in his dealings with his ex-wife.

Like all good crime narratives, it also taps into contemporary concerns and anxieties, in this case class, intergenerational poverty and trauma, and the impact of domestic violence, abuse and alcoholism. It’s a heady mix and in the hands of a less gifted author or harnessed to a less convenient plot, it probably would have felt somewhat strained. In this case, however, it flows naturally from the narrative. There’s even a splash of police corruption for good measure.

Perhaps most poignantly, however, Faithful Place is a story about revisiting and re-evaluating foundational childhood memories and the ways in which that often painful process can change the narrative we build around our lives. It’s a story most obviously played out through Frank’s journey across the course of the novel, but it resonates through quite a few of the character arcs. It also has the added benefit of being one of the modern genre’s most popular conventions, beloved by authors and prestige mini-series writers alike – gone are the days of the objective detective (think Sherlock Holmes, Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot), we are now up to our eyeballs in haunted figures unpacking their own misery and early failures through their cases. To quote TS Eliot:

the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

Four Quartets

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