Click here to read Michael Leonard's take on Faithful Place.
Faithful Place is a hard-hitting thriller, family dysfunction at the heart of every life gone wrong or hope betrayed. Nineteen in 1985, Frank Mackey is ready to flee inner-city Dublin with his girlfriend, Rosie Daly, and begin a life in England far beyond his father’s rages and his mother’s martyrdom. One of five siblings, Frank walks away from his childhood the night of his rendezvous with Rosie, even though she fails to meet at the appointed time and place. Everyone - including Frank - believes Rosie has gone to England to make a life for herself.
Twenty-two years later, a phone call from his sister, Jackie, brings a recalcitrant Frank - now an undercover cop - back to the scene of his violent childhood and the pain of first love. Rosie’s suitcase has been discovered in the vacant building on Faithful Place, a moldy hangout where young Frank and Rosie secretly met, now the favorite haunt of addicts and late-night partiers. Divorced and doing his best to be a good father to his daughter, Holly, Frank dreads the return to the fold, his other siblings still living near the aging parents.
Faithful Place keeps its own secrets and writes its own history, a tough neighborhood where family dramas are kept behind closed doors and old hurts run deep and unforgiven. Frank’s alcoholic father may not have the strength of his younger days, but his scorn is just as deadly, the harsh judgment of his sons just as swift and brutal: “Blood tells, sonny boy. Blood tells.” The suitcase leads to an even more grisly discovery, Frank’s badge of little use in a world that has nothing to say to cops. Before long, Frank is all too aware that his family has reached out and woven its tentacles around his daughter, the resentments of his brother, Shay, have only intensified, and that bright love for the girl with the copper curls is the only salve to a sore heart.
French plunges into this painful territory with authority, although at times it is very difficult to read, the emotional detritus of generations reaching out to claim the present like a bad dream. The author reveals this demographic in short bursts of action: a fist fight, the sobs for the newly dead, the emotions that simmer just below the surface in a neighborhood where families grow up too familiar with one another’s problems and flaws. There’s a fine balance between the weight of truth and the ability to move beyond the past, as Mackey uses all his professional skills to solve the most heinous crime he has ever faced, almost undone by another tragedy that stuns the family and the street. Loyalty is defined differently where shame is the master and pride is the doorkeeper.
There are no happy endings on Faithful Place, just the muted howls of years of rage, abuse and the absence of hope, a father slowly dying and filled with spite, a mother haranguing her grown children who escape to the porch steps for respite, the few shared memories of childhood tainted by violence and fear. Each family on the street has its secrets, peeking through curtains to view the violence that sometimes erupts beyond the confines of home. This is the dark landscape of the human heart, where few escape and those who do bear the scars.