Monday, June 27, 2016
Book 46: PS I got those Mac & Cheetos they were pretty good
Faithful Place is the third book in my book club with Sweetie, and (completely unrelated to the fact that she hid the existence of a new snack food from me) I decided last week that I would go ahead and finish the book ahead of our club.
We started our book club last year, deciding we would read a chapter at a time and then talk about it. We picked Tana French's book to read because I'd just come across a review of her 5th book and it sounded good, so we started the Dublin Murder Squad mystery series at book 1, In The Woods. We read through that one and its follow-up The Likeness and started Faithful Place a LONG time ago. How our club works is that you read at your own pace but you only read the current chapter and then wait for the other person to catch up before discussing. I had finished about the fourth chapter maybe 5 months ago? Longer? A while back. Sweetie, though, wasn't as into this book I think or at least not in the mood for it for the past half-year. I wanted to find out what happened, though, so last week I announced that I was going to go ahead and read the rest of the book and discuss it with her whenever she wanted to finish it.
She didn't really protest, but, then, that's the first time I've broken the We'll do this together pact. On other things -- TV shows, mostly-- that we've decided to watch together I've waited for her (or she's waited for me.)(With the exception of Lost, which she and Middle watched ahead of me and then gave away that my favorite character, Charlie, died in one of the episodes.)
Now, she keeps bugging me to tell her if she was right about who the murderer was, and I keep saying I won't tell her. (She's threatening to read it from the back forwards just to find out, which would be interesting to watch.)
(It might, in fact, be interesting to write a mystery from the back forwards, unwinding to each previous stage of the mystery. I wonder if it could be done and still be exciting. Challenge... considered.)
Anyway, Faithful Place is pretty good. I don't ordinarily go in for mysteries very much, because I am bad at solving them. (Pretty much everyone the detective interacts with is a suspect in my mind.) But mysteries where the main point isn't the mystery can be entertaining, and that's what two of the three Tana French books are like so far.
To back up a bit, because the books all sort of interrelate: In In The Woods (the best one so far) a dead girl is found in a woods that developers are tearing up. Two detectives are assigned to investigate: Rob Ryan and Cassie Maddox. Rob, though, was involved in some sort of near-abduction as a kid right in those woods, and he can't remember what happened. That nearly derails the investigation as Rob slowly goes to pieces trying to figure out what happened to him and his two best friends.
The follow-up, The Likeness, has only Cassie from the first book. She's used by Undercover detective Frank Mackey to investigate a murder among some graduate students, infiltrating the group because she is a dead (pun intended) ringer for the victim; the cover story is that the victim was only seriously wounded and has returned to the home they all share.
Both of those stories are good. Sweetie liked (pun intended) The Likeness less than I did, because she found its premise pretty unbelievable. In The Woods was fantastic, The Likeness just good.
Faithful Place is in-between. This one stars Frank Mackey, and has him heading back to the poor part of Dublin where he grew up when the corpse of his former girlfriend from his teen years is found in the abandoned house up the street from where he lived. He and the girl were going to elope, but she never showed up on the planned night, so he left himself and spent the next 20 years thinking she'd run off from him, too.
The mystery isn't much of a mystery; it pretty quickly centers on one of three suspects and although late in the game there's some attempts at making two of the three seem credible there's never very much doubt who did it. The better part of the book is not only the way Frank has to investigate -- he's not on the case, of course, and is somewhat of a suspect himself -- but how Frank interacts with his family, both the family he left behind in the poor part of town and the ex-wife and 9-year-old daughter he's got in the newer part of his life. The story manages to show a dirt-poor group of Irish people in a way that makes them sad but not pitiful, and feels like a really great look at what life in Ireland is like for regular people.
There's a part at the end of the book where I thought for a minute it was going to go off the rails. Without spoiling much, I'm going to simply say that authors need to tread carefully when they have kids do stuff that kids don't do. I'm no expert on kids but I've been around 9 year olds and I've never seen one --even a precocious one-- even one raised by a detective -- behave like the 9 year old in this book. That almost in fact killed the book for me, except that the scene right after the awfully-written 9-year-old scene is so great that it pulled it back. By this point, three books in, I'm willing to let French have a really bad spot of writing. The scene read like it was an attempt to gin up some suspense while also revealing some information, and was hamhanded and overly precious at the same time.
Despite that one flaw, the book is pretty good, and worth reading even if you're not crazy about mysteries.
(And, Sweetie, since I know you read this sometimes, no I'm not going to tell you who did it.) :P