I don’t know of any other mystery series that features a different character in each book, but I think that aspect of Tana French’s gripping, atmospheric Irish novels is one of the reasons her characters are so compellingly authentic—their actions, circumstances and personalities don’t require the distortion that eventually becomes necessary if one character is going to solve multiple, plot-worthy crimes. All of French’s books, Faithful Place included, immerse the reader in densely layered Irish settings and contemporary Irish speech patterns.Tana French has a talent for putting together groups of people that I’d love to belong to, at least for a while, even when things start to go badly. Reading her first novel, In The Woods, I envied the relationship between police detective partners Cassie and Rob, who is the first person narrator, and in The Likeness, which features Cassie, I wanted to be part of the tight knit group of graduate students Cassie was living with while working undercover. In Faithful Place I, almost unbelievably, had an inexplicable longing to be a member of Frank Mackey’s very dysfunctional family, a family he himself had been avoiding for years until the long dead body of his first girlfriend Rosie was discovered in the abandoned building they had hung out in as teenagers. Before she was found Frank thought Rosie had deserted him to run off to London alone, a heartbreak that was still haunting him years later. I was surprised when I first read that the main character in Faithful Place is Frank Mackey, an undercover detective who has a small but important role in The Likeness, and who didn’t seem to me very, well, likable, but Tana French performed some sort of alchemy in Faithful Place, because without changing who Frank Mackey is her adept rendering of his life and thoughts transformed him into one of my favorites. If French is as successful in her next novel, Broken Harbor, due out in June 2012, she will have performed that alchemy again because the new book will feature Scorcher, the obnoxious detective in Faithful Place who’s assigned to solve the murder of Frank Mackey’s teenaged girlfriend. I can’t wait to have French work her moody magic on me again.