The engrossing Dublin Murder Squad series continues with Faithful Place (2010), the third novel in the series. While not as outwardly impressive as its predecessors, it’s a solid mystery that makes its own mark. This one follows Francis “Frank” Mackey, who isn’t in fact a homicide detective; he’s the undercover cop who ran Cassie Maddox’s unforgettable deep-cover operation in The Likeness. But murder is in the cards for him, however, when the suitcase of Frank’s high-school sweetheart Rosie turns up in a derelict apartment building in his old neighborhood. Frank comes home to look into it, not only resurrecting the specter of the lost love of his life, but confronting the abusive, dysfunctional family he had long ago abandoned.
Faithful Place lacks the flashier high-concept premises of In the Woods and The Likeness, but French sustains the series nonetheless, deploying her usual talent for finely honed characters and intriguing structural complexity. The narrative voice is edgy and convincing; indeed, French may be one of the best female writers out there when it comes to essaying a traditionally masculine point-of-view. Alas, one important chunk of Frank’s backstory remains conveniently offstage until late in the book, in a way I found unlikely considering the close first-person viewpoint. It’s only a minor structural cheat, but it mars what is otherwise an enthralling mystery full of tense, well executed family drama.