‘Faithful Place’ is my favorite Tana French book. The dysfunctional family of Frank Mackey was hard for me to let go of when the book ended. I think French shares my love for Frank because with ‘The Secret Place’ he is now part of three Dublin Murder Squad books He’s not the center of this book. That honor goes to Detective Stephen Moran and Mackey’s daughter Holly. Holly is now a teenager and a boarder at the prestigious school St. Kilda’s. Frank, being undercover and from a sketchy part of Dublin, surprisingly sent his daughter to boarding school. It would be a surprise to anyone, but Ryan worked with Frank on Mackey’s brothers murder. Frank wouldn’t want his daughter taking on airs and becoming posh. The Mackey he knew would have had his daughter in public school. When sixteen year old Holly Mackey walks into his office, however, with the picture of a dead boy and a clue to one of the Squads biggest murder cases he sees she has grown up. He got the collar with the help of Frank and Holly’s witness testimony when she was only nine. He had no business making the arrest at Faithful Place, but he did, and it both made and stunted his career. He’s been stuck in Cold Cases. Holly’s appearance, and trust in him, may give him his only opportunity onto the murder squad.
Moran talks his way into Antoinette Conway’s, the Detective Inspector for the Chris Harper murder, good graces. She allows Moran to ride along to the school to prove his worth on a very temporary basis, specifically, only as long as he’s useful. Conway is without a partner and no one on the squad wants to work with her. She’s tough, prickly, and isn’t there to make friends. Moran doesn’t care as long as he can get a shot at Murder. As is French’s tendency, her characters are flawed, complex, and not wholly likable. That said they are always interesting. Moran and Conway find a rhythm. Conway takes full advantage of Moran’s likability to weedle their way into the girls confidences. They are in for a much longer day, and night, than either expected.
French explores the world of adolescent girls with this mystery. She makes it clear that whether at boarding school or at the poorest public school in Dublin they are the same. All the advantages the rich give their children don’t make them exempt from anger, lying, cheating, stealing, or the ability to murder. This does not mean she presents them as trite, stupid, or predictable. On the contrary; behind the primping, the make up, the magazine’s, texting, boys, and mindless slang they are astute and dangerous. Somewhere at St. Kilda’s a murderer is hiding among several girls with countless secrets kept for thousands of reasons. Hidden amongst them is the reason a teenage boy was killed. French details the life of young women – the expectations set on them and the various reactions they have to those expectations. Those reactions are virtuous as well as manipulative and cruel. In the world French creates idealism and absolutes rule. Adults are not to be trusted. Moran and Conway have to gain access to what they hold right and close. It’s not a small task.
I enjoyed ‘The Secret Place.’ The “OMG’s,” “like totally,” and”LOL’s” started to grate on my nerves but they were supposed to. French captures the intelligence, the hope, the painful embarrassment, the idealism and ridiculousness of adolescence. I liken the experience to one I had when I read “Cat’s Eye” by Margaret Atwood. The experience was visceral and brought back memories I had buried of being a girl that age. French throws out several twists and red herrings. I didn’t see many of them coming. Something unique to French, that you either like or hate, is she leaves loose ends purposely unresolved. It drives me crazy but I like it. It feels real. I’m sure in real murder cases you don’t get all the answers even when you find the perpetrator. ‘Faithful Place’ is still my favorite of hers, but this is good. I encourage you to pick it up if you are a Tana French fan, if you like mysteries, Irish mysteries, or psychological thrillers. Do not pick this up if you aren’t interested in the lives of young girls and/or don’t want to read a lot of teenage slang/vernacular.