Another stunning novel by Tana French has me rushing to ensure I will be able to continue my binge reading without interruption. After proving his worth as Cassie Maddox’s handler in The Likeness, Francis ‘Frank’ Mackey is given his own novel, where the reader can explore the deep and emotionally-driven aspects of the man’s life. At nineteen, Mackey and his sweetheart, Rosie Daly, planned to leave their dead-end lives in Dublin and cross over to England. When Rosie did not turn up at their rendezvous point, Mackey slumped back home, only to find a ‘Dear John’ letter, which explained that she chose to flee alone. Feeling jilted, Mackey ran off, never to look back on his family or the life he hoped to soon forget. Just over two decades later, Rosie’s suitcase is found around the Mackey home and Frank’s emotions come rushing back after a call from his kid sister. Soon a body is discovered that bears forensic similarities to young Rosie Daly and Mackey tries to weasel his way into the investigation, much to the dismay of Dublin Murder Squad star-detective, Scorcher Kennedy. Not only does Frank have to come to terms with the murder of his first love, but he also must return to face his family and the issues he thought he left in his past. If that were not enough, his closeness to the victim and surrounding area has Kennedy blocking his access at every turn. Remembering not only the lead-up to his planned departure with Rosie but also the struggles he faced growing up in a tenement house, Mackey vows never to let his own daughter bear witness to the depravation that almost crippled him, while he juggles processing his lot who have not matured in the two decades since his absence. With Rosie’s killer potentially somewhere in the tenement project, someone else close to Mackey dies and all eyes shift on him. Could he have killed Rosie and then tried to cover-up when others began to poke around? Told in her brilliant form, French offers the reader a slow and methodical examination of a central theme while developing the story narrative throughout. A must-read for those who have tired from all the cookie-cutter “kill/search/find” police procedurals on the market today.
I am as gobsmacked as the next person that French has me speechless (save for this review) three books into the series. There is nothing commonplace about these books or the characters found herein. While I expected a series of cases with the same central murder squad, these books have taken twists and turns I could not have expected, pulling me well beyond simple admiration. This novel seeks to push away from the formal murder investigation as Frank Mackey takes the reins and does his own investigating, introducing readers to a handful (or a score, even) of local and less-refined Dubliners who have always lived in the shadows of tenement houses and blue-collar lives. French does not shy away from their boozing, beating, and belligerent nature, while shaping a story that uses this to her advantage. The narrative is slow as January molasses, but in so being, allows the reader to gaze at all that surrounds them and develop deeper bonds and curiosities. As with each novel, French offers a soap box for a central theme; this one being the role of family. Frank Mackey is forced to return to the childhood home and face the dysfunction that he sought to flee with two ferry tickets over to England. He must admit from where he has come while trying to shield his young daughter from mixing with his own blood. French effectively shows the less than desirable side of the Mackeys and the Dalys, but also the great socio-economic disparities in Dublin, without making a mockery of the entire thing. Class and standing play a central role in one’s upbringing, but forgetting one’s roots will never erase the past that has shaped the present. A stunning novel that has left me aching to get back over t0 Ireland sooner than later. I only hope the next story is as captivating, as I have discovered a pattern in French’s choice in protagonists.
Kudos, Madam French for yet another wonderful novel. I do hope my friends and family will find your work as riveting as I have, as I speak about it on a daily basis.