Frank Mackey was far from my favorite character in The Likeness. He caused all sorts of trouble for Cassie and Sam, largely because of his own arrogance. So I wasn’t sure that I wanted to spend a whole book with him. But I don’t need characters to be likable for a book to be good (and Rob in In the Woods is not at all likable by the end), so I picked up Faithful Place assuming that I’d at least get a good crime story (and a cold case crime — my favorite!) even if I didn’t care much for the central character. And by the end of the book, I found myself liking Frank more than I expected.
The story involves the disappearance of Frank’s girlfriend from his teenage years. The two grew up in a poor neighborhood known as Faithful Place, and they made a plan to escape their disapproving families and go to England. But on the night they were to leave, Rosie never showed up. Frank assumed she left on her own, so he did the same, staying in Dublin but never returning to his old neighborhood.
Now, decades later, Rosie’s suitcase has been found hidden in an old building in the neighborhood. Did Rosie leave without it? Or did she never leave at all?
While not an official detective on the case, Frank follows the investigation closely and even, of course, does some detecting on his own. This requires him to get back in touch with his family, after years of speaking only to his sister Jackie. His father still drinks, his mother still yells, and his siblings seem as unable to get away as ever.
This mystery doesn’t have as many complications as The Likeness and In the Woods. In fact, it wasn’t particularly difficult to work out who the likely killer was. (I wavered between two people for most of the book.) But it seems that the complications that matter in Tana French’s books are those in the detective’s lives. And here, I found plenty to appreciate.
Frank’s story is not new or original, but I liked seeing how this abrasive person was shaped and watching him grapple with that shaping. This is a story about a decent man who was never taught how to be decent. French also complicates the killer’s story in ways that I found satisfying, but that do not let them off the hook. It’s a good, solid mystery thriller. It’s not as inventive as the previous two books, but I thought the pace was a little better (it’s the shortest of the three books). And I’m already looking forward to reading Broken Harbor.