Saturday, July 24, 2010
I don’t know about you but before I commit to a psychological thriller I always read its beginning, then its end to find out who the killer is. Then I decide whether or not to read the rest of the story – for me the pleasure in reading a thriller is the stalking of the killer and the running of him/her to ground. (I do accept it’s the duty of thriller writers to feed the reader red herrings but frankly I find them boring.)
With Faithful Place it was not necessary to read the end of the book - the killer was waving and shouting to me right from our first introduction – yippee! - so I settled with satisfaction to follow the story of Frank who left home at nineteen after an aborted elopement with Rose who lived on his street, who was his secret girlfriend, who dumped him with a terse note, on the night they’d planned to run away together.
Twenty years later Frank is a cop and his family despise him for it. They’re from the Liberties, in inner city Dublin, where ‘the rules on my road went like this: no matter how skint you are, if you got to the pub then you stand your round; if your mate gets into a fight, you stick around to drag him off as soon as you see blood, so no one loses face; you leave the heroin to them down in the flats; even if you’re an anarchist punk rocker this month, you go to Mass on Sunday; and no matter what, you never, ever squeal on anyone.’
So Frank and his family don’t keep in touch until a suitcase is discovered stuffed up a fireplace in the derelict house where twenty years before Frank had arranged to meet Rose. To run away with her to England. Except she never turned up....
Frank returns to the Liberties and very quickly discovers not just Rose’s suitcase, but Rose’s poor body dumped and concealed in the basement of the derelict house. And in spite of the rules he was reared with, he begins with ruthless determination to find out who killed his girlfriend and to bring that person to justice. Even if that person is part of his close knit dysfunctional family – he says: “Personally, I would, in fact, have bet on at least one member of my family coming to a sticky and complicated end.”
The thing that stands out in this book is the unapologetic usages of proper Dublin speak. And the vivid portrayal of Irish people and Irish life. I can probably name you a dozen contemporary Irish novelists, off the top of my head, who routinely set their stories in Dublin yet they could be set in any old town – the dialogue is so carefully bland, and apart from a couple of tourist-friendly landmarks there’s no local colour or points of reference at all. Fair play to Tana French, who studied acting at Trinity College, for drawing to our unequivocal attention the Irish love of rashers for breakfast and singalongs at a wake. And equally impressive is her ability to convincingly write a male leading character. About this she says: “Because of the acting background, creating and inhabiting a character was what I’d been doing for a long time. Writing from the perspective of someone of the opposite sex didn’t seem like a particularly huge leap – not nearly as huge as, for example, writing dialogue for a killer.’
VERDICT: A chilling reminder that though you can choose your friends, you can’t choose your family.