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Book by French Tana
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In all your life, only a few moments matter. Mostly you never get a good look at them except in hindsight, long after they’ve zipped past you: the moment when you decided whether to talk to that girl, slow down on that blind bend, stop and find that condom. I was lucky, I guess you could call it. I got to see one of mine face-to-face, and recognize it for what it was. I got to feel the riptide pull of my life spinning around me, one winter night, while I waited in the dark at the top of Faithful Place.
I was nineteen, old enough to take on the world and young enough to be a dozen kinds of stupid, and that night as soon as both my brothers were snoring I slid out of our bedroom with my rucksack on my back and my Docs hanging from one hand. A floorboard creaked and in the girls’ room one of my sisters murmured in her sleep, but I was magic that night, riding high on that surge tide, unstoppable; my parents didn’t even turn over on the pullout bed as I moved through the front room, close enough to touch. The fire had burned down to nothing but a muttering red glow. In the rucksack was everything important I owned: jeans, T-shirts, a secondhand wireless, a hundred quid and my birth cert. That was all you needed to go over to England, back then. Rosie had the ferry tickets.
I waited for her at the end of the road, in the shadows outside the foggy yellow circle of lamplight. The air was cold as glass, with a savory burnt edge from the hops up at Guinness’s. I had three pairs of socks under the Docs, and I stuffed my hands deep into the pockets of my German army parka and listened one last time to my street alive and moving down the long currents of the night. A woman laughing, Ah now who said you could, a window slamming down. Scrabble of a rat along brickwork, a man coughing, the whoosh of a bike around the corner; the low fierce grumble of Mad Johnny Malone, in the basement of Number 14, talking himself to sleep. Couple-noises somewhere, muffled whimpers, rhythmic bumps, and I thought about the smell of Rosie’s neck and grinned up at the sky. I heard the bells of the city chime for midnight, Christchurch, St. Pat’s, St. Michan’s, huge round notes tumbling down from the sky like a celebration, ringing in our own secret New Year.
When they rang one I was afraid. A trail of faint rustles and thumps all down the back gardens, and I straightened up ready, but she didn’t come climbing over the end wall; probably someone sneaking home, late and guilty, in at a window. In Number 7 Sallie Hearne’s newest kid cried, a thin defeated wail, till she dragged herself awake and sang to it. I know where I’m going . . . Painted rooms are bonny . . .
When they rang two, the mix-up hit me like a kick in the hole. It catapulted me right over the end wall into the garden of Number 16, condemned since before I was born, colonized by us kids ignoring the awful warnings, littered with beer cans and fag ends and lost virginities. I leaped up the rotten stairs four at a time without caring who heard. I was so sure, I could already see her, furious copper curls and fists on hips, Where the fuck have you been?
Splintered floorboards, holes punched in plaster, debris and cold dark drafts and no one. In the top front room I found the note, just a page ripped out of a kid’s school copy. On the bare floor, fluttering in the pale rectangle of light from the window, it looked like it had been there for a hundred years. That was when I felt that riptide change, jackknife and turn deadly, much too strong to fight and not on my side any more.
I didn’t take the note with me. By the time I left Number 16 I knew it by heart, and I had the rest of my life to try to believe it. I left it where it was and went back to the end of the road. I waited there in the shadows, watching the plumes of smoke that my breath sent into the lamplight, while the bells tolled three and four and five. The night faded to a thin sad gray and round the corner a milk cart clattered over cobblestones towards the dairy, and I was still waiting for Rosie Daly at the top of Faithful Place.
My father once told me that the most important thing every man should know is what he would die for. If you don’t know that, he said, what are you worth? Nothing. You’re not a man at all. I was thirteen and he was three quarters of the way into a bottle of Gordon’s finest, but hey, good talk. As far as I recall, he was willing to die a) for Ireland, b) for his mother, who had been dead for ten years, and c) to get that bitch Maggie Thatcher.
All the same, at any moment of my life since that day, I could have told you straight off the bat exactly what I would die for. At first it was easy: my family, my girl, my home. Later, for a while, things got more complicated. These days they hold steady, and I like that; it feels like something a man can be proud of. I would die for, in no particular order, my city, my job, and my kid.
The kid is well behaved so far, the city is Dublin, and the job is on the Undercover Squad, so it may sound obvious which one I’m most likely to wind up dying for, but it’s been a while since work handed me anything scarier than a paperwork megaturd. The size of this country means a field agent’s shelf life is short; two ops, maybe four, and your risk of being spotted gets too high. I used up my nine lives a long time back. I stay behind the scenes, for now, and run operations of my own.
Here’s the real risk in Undercover, in the field and out: you create illusions for long enough, you start thinking you’re in control. It’s easy to slide into believing you’re the hypnotist here, the mirage master, the smart cookie who knows what’s real and how all the tricks are done. The fact is you’re still just another slack-jawed mark in the audience. No matter how good you are, this world is always going to be better at this game. It’s more cunning than you are, it’s faster and it’s a whole lot more ruthless. All you can do is try to keep up, know your weak spots and never stop expecting the sucker punch.
The second time my life geared up for the sucker punch, it was a Friday afternoon at the beginning of December. I had spent the day doing maintenance work on some of my current mirages—one of my boys, who would not be getting any cookies from Uncle Frank in his Christmas stocking, had got himself into a situation wherein, for complex reasons, he needed an elderly lady whom he could introduce to several low-level drug dealers as his granny—and I was heading over to my ex-wife’s place to pick up my kid for the weekend. Olivia and Holly live in a jaw-droppingly tasteful semi-d on a manicured cul-de-sac in Dalkey. Olivia’s daddy gave it to us for a wedding present. When we moved in, it had a name instead of a number. I got rid of that fast, but still, I should have copped right then that this marriage was never going to work. If my parents had known I was getting married, my ma would have gone deep into hock at the credit union, bought us a lovely floral living-room suite and been outraged if we took the plastic off the cushions.
Olivia kept herself bang in the middle of the doorway, in case I got ideas about coming in. “Holly’s almost ready,” she said.
Olivia, and I say this hand on heart with the proper balance of smugness and regret, is a stunner: tall, with a long elegant face, plenty of soft ash-blond hair and the kind of discreet curves you don’t notice at first and then can’t stop noticing. That evening she was smoothed into an expensive black dress and delicate tights and her grandmother’s diamond necklace that only comes out on big occasions, and the Pope himself would have whipped off his skullcap to mop his brow. Me being a less classy guy than the Pope, I wolf whistled. “Big date?”
“We’re going for dinner.”
“Does ‘we’ involve Dermo again?”
Olivia is way too smart to let me yank her chain that easily. “His name’s Dermot, and yes, it does.”
I did impressed. “That’s four weekends running, am I right? Tell me something: is tonight the big night?”
Olivia called up the stairs, “Holly! Your father’s here!” While she had her back turned, I headed on past her into the hall. She was wearing Chanel No. 5, same as she has ever since we met.
Upstairs: “Daddy! I’m coming I’m coming I’m coming, I just have to . . .” and then a long intent stream of chatter, as Holly explained her complicated little head without caring whether anyone could hear her. I yelled, “You take your time, sweetheart!” on my way into the kitchen.
Olivia followed me. “Dermot will be here any minute,” she told me. I wasn’t clear on whether this was a threat or a plea.
I flipped open the fridge and had a look inside. “I don’t like the cut of that fella. He’s got no chin. I never trust a man with no chin.”
“Well, fortunately, your taste in men isn’t relevant here.”
“It is if you’re getting serious enough that he’ll be spending time around Holly. What’s his surname again?”
Once, back when we were heading for the split, Olivia slammed the fridge door on my head. I could tell she was thinking about doing it again. I stayed leaning over, to give her every opportunity, but she kept her cool. “Why do you want to know?”
“I’ll need to run him through the computer.” I pulled out a carton of orange juice and gave it a shake. “What’s this crap? When did you stop buying the good stuff?”
Olivia’s mouth—subtle nude lipstick—was starting to tighten. “You will not run Dermot through any computer, Frank.”
“Got no choice,” I told her cheerfully. “I have to make sure he’s not a kiddie-fiddler, haven’t I?”
“Sweet Lord, Frank! He is not—”
“Maybe not,” I acknowledged. “Probably not. But how can you be sure, Liv? Wouldn’t you rather be safe than sorry?” I uncapped the juice and took a swig.
“Holly!” Olivia called, louder. “Hurry up!”
“I can’t find my horse!” A bunch of thumps, overhead.
I told Olivia, “They target single mammies with lovely little kids. And it’s amazing how many of them don’t have chins. Have you never noticed that?”
“No, Frank, I haven’t. And I won’t have you using your job to intimidate—”
“Take a good look next time there’s a pedo on the telly. White van and no chin, I guarantee you. What does Dermo drive?”
I had another big gulp of juice, wiped off the spout with my sleeve and stuck the carton back in the fridge. “That tastes like cat’s piss. If I up the child support, will you buy decent juice?”
“If you tripled it,” Olivia said sweetly and coldly, glancing at her watch, “not that you could, it might just about cover one carton a week.” Kitty has claws, if you keep pulling her tail for long enough.
At this point Holly saved both of us from ourselves by shooting out of her room calling, “Daddydaddydaddy!” at the top of her lungs. I made it to the bottom of the stairs in time for her to take a flying leap at me like a little spinning firework, all gold cobweb hair and pink sparkly things, wrapping her legs round my waist and whacking me in the back with her schoolbag and a fuzzy pony called Clara that had seen better days. “Hello, spider monkey,” I said, kissing the top of her head. She was light as a fairy. “How was your week?”
“Very busy and I’m not a spider monkey,” she told me severely, nose to nose. “What’s a spider monkey?”
Holly is nine and the fine-boned, easy-bruised spit of her mother’s family—us Mackeys are sturdy and thick-skinned and thick-haired, built for hard work in Dublin weather—all except for her eyes. The first time I ever saw her she looked up at me with my own eyes, great wide bright-blue eyes that hit me like a Taser zap, and they still make my heart flip over every time. Olivia can scrape off my surname like an out-of-date address label, load up the fridge with juice I don’t like and invite Dermo the Pedo to fill my side of the bed, but there’s not a thing she can do about those eyes.
I told Holly, “It’s a magic fairy monkey that lives in an enchanted wood.” She gave me a look that was perfectly balanced between Wow and Nice try. “What has you so busy?”
She slid off me and landed on the floor with a thump. “Chloe and Sarah and me are going to have a band. I drew you a picture in school because we made up a dance and can I have white boots? And Sarah wrote a song and . . .” For a second there Olivia and I almost smiled at each other, across her head, before Olivia caught herself and checked her watch again.
In the drive we crossed paths with my friend Dermo, who—as I know for a fact, because I snagged his plate number the first time he and Olivia went out to dinner—is an impeccably law-abiding guy who has never even parked his Audi on a double yellow, and who can’t help looking like he lives life on the verge of a massive belch. “Evening,” he said, giving me an electrocuted nod. I think Dermo may be scared of me. “Holly.”
“What do you call him?” I asked Holly, when I had fastened her into her booster seat and Olivia, perfect as Grace Kelly, was kissing Dermo’s cheek in the doorway.
Holly rearranged Clara’s mane and shrugged. “Mum says to call him Uncle Dermot.”
“And do you?”
“No. Out loud I don’t call him anything. In my head I call him Squidface.” She checked in the rearview mirror, to see if I was going to give out about that. Her chin was all ready to turn stubborn.
I started to laugh. “Beautiful,” I told her. “That’s my girl,” and I did a handbrake turn to make Olivia and Squidface jump.
Since Olivia got sense and kicked me out, I live on the quays, in a massive apartment block built in the nineties by, apparently, David Lynch. The carpets are so deep that I’ve never heard a footstep, but even at four in the morning you can feel the hum of five hundred minds buzzing on every side of you: people dreaming, hoping, worrying, planning, thinking. I grew up in a tenement house, so you would think I’d be good with the factory-farm lifestyle, but this is different. I don’t know these people; I never even see these people. I have no idea how or when they get in and out of the place. For all I know they never leave, just stay barricaded in their apartments, thinking. Even in my sleep I’ve got one ear tuned to that buzz, ready to leap out of bed and defend my territory if I need to.
The decor in my personal corner of Twin Peaks is divorcé chic, by which I mean that, four years on, it still looks like the moving van hasn’t arrived yet. The exception is Holly’s room, which is loaded with every fluffy pastel object known to man. The day we went looking for furniture together, I had finally managed to wrestle one weekend a month out of Olivia, and I wanted to buy Holly everything on three floors of the shopping center. A part of me had believed I’d never see her again.
“What are we doing tomorrow?” she wanted to know, as we headed up the padded corridor. She was trailing Clara on the carpet by one leg. Last I’d looked, she would have screamed bloody murder at the thought of that horse touching the floor. Blink and you miss something.
“Remember that kite I got you? Finish all your homework tonight, and if it’s not raining I’ll bring you to the ...Revue de presse :
“Tana French’s mysteries are like big old trees: the deeper their roots, the more luxurious the foliage they wave in your face.”
--Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times Book Review
“French does something fresh with every novel, each one as powerful as the last but in a very different manner. Perhaps she has superpowers of her own? Whatever the source of her gift, it’s only growing more miraculous with every book.”
--Laura Miller, Salon.com
“An expertly rendered, gripping new novel”
--Janet Maslin, The New York Times
“Irish writer Tana French hit the big time with her stunning cop-drama debut, “In the Woods,” and followed it with an equally brilliant book, “The Likeness.” Both demonstrated French’s gift for merging the best traits of the crime genre with the compassionate insights and nimble prose associated with “serious” literature. A third dazzler, “Faithful Place,” puts Detective Frank Mackey, a supporting actor from “The Likeness,” front and center.”
--The Seattle Times
“French’s emotionally searing third novel of the Dublin Murder Squad (after The Likeness) shows the Irish author getting better with each book.”
--Publisher’s Weekly (starred review)
“[French] revisits, evocatively and lyrically, themes she's used before: love, loss, memory, murder, and life in modern Ireland. French's writing remains brilliant, and her dialogue is sharp, often lacerating, and sometimes mordantly funny. Faithful Place is her best book yet.”
--Booklist (starred review)
“The charming narrative will leave readers begging for a sequel.”
“Powerful...An authentic Irish heartbreaker”
--The Star-Ledger (Newark)
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