Book Review: Faithful Place

Faithful Place: A NovelFaithful Place by Tana French

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve enjoyed Tana French’s books thus far–enough so that I wanted to read this one. At this point in my reading life, it’s not often that I read multiple books by the same author. I just don’t have the time to commit to one genre and author–not when there are so many other excellent books being published every day. I like to dabble, going from one genre and author to the next, getting a feel for what’s out there. When I find something I like, I will return. This is the third book of hers that I’ve read, and I guess I’d have to say I’m becoming a fan. Not a die-hard, will-read-everything-by-her-no-matter-what fan, but still–I haven’t been let down yet.

What’s great about this book is that I feel it’s a step up for her. Her previous books felt like interesting, well-executed murder mystery novels with a more literary bent. More thinking involved than you’d get in the latest Cornwell or Evanovich. But not enough so that French stood out to me as an author. That’s changed with Faithful Place. I’m beginning to know what sort of books she writes. The characters are more fully fleshed out. The literary bent is more pronounced.

But what really made this one stand out for me is the way the city (Dublin) took on an active, living role in the novel. You could tell these characters actually *lived* there. Locations were fully formed. They had a real impact on who the people who lived there were, and what could or could not happen. So often, I feel like setting in a mystery is there more for the flair than for any real effect. Maybe you have some southern drawl going on, or a bit of generic Angela Lansbury Maine. But that’s all window dressing. You could switch the setting and have essentially the same plot.

Not so with this novel. You feel like you get to understand Dublin by the end of it. At least a piece of the city. (Of course, I can’t say how accurate that understanding is–but at least I feel like it was well described.) The setting and the plot are intrinsically tied together in this novel.

It’s the story of a cop returning to the place he grew up to solve the murder of his first true love. There’s neighborhood intrigue, family machinations, police in-fighting–all very well done. It didn’t quite have the oomph to get me to give it 5 stars. Something just didn’t click 100% for me. Maybe it’s a sign that while I like literary fiction, I don’t *enjoy* it as much as pure genre fic. Either way, I enjoyed the book, and I look forward to reading her next.

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