Spoilers ahead. I’ll put most of them beyond the jump, but be ye warned.
No one knows what it’s like to be the bad man, to be the sad man, behind blue eyes.
Bright baby blues make all of the Mackeys instantly recognizable. Behind Frank Mackey’s blue eyes is the memory of Rosie Daly. Hope springs eternal that she’ll show up on his doorstep one day or drunk dial him at 3am or get picked up for hooking so he can go visit her in jail. Rosie was supposed to elope with Frank back when they were 19. They had big plans to start over à la Livin on a Prayer, but she never showed up for their great escape. Instead, Frank found a note that suggested that she had left without him, and he has spent his life thinking that that she had changed her mind because his family is batshit insane. Louis Grizzard really said it best: she tore out Frank’s heart and stomped that sucker flat.
But my dreams, they aren’t as empty as my conscience seems to be. I have hours, only lonely.
Frank left Faithful Place anyway and went on to become an Undercover detective. (You may remember him from The Likeness as the crazy guy in charge.) The people of Faithful Place do not take kindly to cops. Fortunately, Frank had no intention of ever returning home, and he makes it 22 years. He had a good run. Then Rosie’s suitcase turns up in a building that is being torn down. BAM. He’s right back in the midst of everything he tried to leave behind forever – drunken and abusive da, a mammy with Olympic-caliber guilt-tripping skills, and 4 siblings who left home but never managed to escape its clutches. The dynamic is…complicated.
The discovery of the moldering suitcase sends Frank’s life into a tailspin. He finds out that the Place isn’t something you can leave behind. Slowly but surely, it draws its own back in, much like the Aztec gold in Pirates of the Caribbean.
No one knows what it’s like to be hated, to be fated to telling only lies.
Another pair of blue eyes holds the secret to what happened that night. At least one person isn’t surprised when the police find Rosie’s body in the basement of Number 16, and another puts puts the pieces together as seemingly innocuous memories take on new meaning. The character development here is amazing. Tana French is an author who doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to killing off her beautifully developed characters. I knew Rosie was dead from the time I read the prologue, and I was able to steel myself for that one, but there is another death that totally blindsided me. I should have seen it coming – that character was written to be expendable, but I was too busy getting attached to him to notice that he was going to be ripped from my life. I might have welled up there on the beach. A few more sangrias and I would have been shaking my fist in anger. Given enough sangria, and I could have gotten shouty about it, too. All in all, I suppose it’s a good thing that the drinks were being split five ways.
No one knows what it’s like to feel these feelings like I do. And I blame you.
Frank isn’t a renowned detective for nothing. Determined to find Rosie’s killer, and unwilling to re-immerse himself in the environment he’s been running from for so long, he treats the situation like an Undercover op in an effort to get some emotional distance from memories he’d rather not face. While not entirely successful on that front, he does figure out who the killer is. And this is where Tana French sets herself apart from other mystery writers. This isn’t a traditional murder mystery. The killer’s identity isn’t nearly as important as the things that happen during Frank’s quest to track him down and the emotional turmoil he endures when he does find the murderer. And then I found myself feeling sorry for the killer of all things. I even got a weensy bit irked that Frank doesn’t see the hideous unfairness of the big picture. This is some amazing writing, y’all. It’s not often that a reader sympathizes with both the bereaved and the bereaver. Frank most certainly does not sympathize with Rosie’s murderer, though. He is determined to get what justice he can for his girl, even if it means putting the person he loves most in this world through an ordeal she should never be asked to face.
My love is vengeance. That’s never free.