Cue the eerie music. On the Literary Lunchbox countdown to the Edgars for Best Novel, we now have five out of six nominees that hinge on a crime committed in the past. In the case of Faithful Place, the wake-up call is literally a call. Dublin undercover police detective Frank Mackey answers the phone one day to hear the voice of his sister, asking him to come home. They’ve found a suitcase at 16 Faithful Place…where the teenage Rosie Daley promised to make a life with Frank, then left him behind.
It’s been 20 years and Frank’s still blaming his brawling family for Rosie’s desertion. All he believes about himself, his family, and his past is called into question, especially once Rosie’s body is found. She never left him. She never left, at all.
Tana French has demonstrated mastery of the suspense novel with her previous books, most notably In the Woods, which won the Edgar for Best First Novel by an American Author in 2007, and also good was her The Likeness. With Faithful Place, French has written a book filled with memorable, vibrant, flawed and true characters.
Particularly good: Family dynamics, characterization, and the way that Frank’s self-esteem issues cloud his ability to see the truth for so many years. French does a good job with presenting various potential murderers, and Frank’s brother Kevin’s death is heart-wrenching. Also excellent is the character of Stephen Moran, home-town cop pulled into Frank’s behind-the-scenes sleuthing. The final “whodunit” reveal is stunning in its simplicity.
Not as strong: It’s a hurdle to swallow the idea that Frank never considers the thought that Rosie was killed until after her suitcase turns up. He actually heard her murder but didn’t recognize the fact. The fact that he’s never been able to find her, despite years of sporadic searching never gave him pause. Still, in context, I bought it.
Given the strength of Tana French’s plotting, characters, and emotional impact, Faithful Place is taking the top spot in the Lunchbox Edgar rankings for Best Novel.
Lunchbox rankings for the MWA Edgar for Best Novel: