Study Guide

Faithful Place

by Tana French

Faithful Place Summary

Chapter Summaries

Chapter 1 Summary

According to Frank Mackey, the narrator and protagonist of Tana French's novel Faithful Place, "only a few moments matter" in one's whole life. For Frank, that moment occurs when he is a nineteen-year-old kid looking for a way out of his depressing, turbulent home in an Irish working-class neighborhood. He and his girlfriend, Rosie Daly, determine that their escape is to meet in the middle of the night at an abandoned house in their neighborhood and to take a ferry to England. But as Frank waits outside the building late one night for over two hours, he begins to get nervous and wanders inside only to find a note from Rosie. Frank interprets the note as Rosie changing her mind, so he leaves the house angrily.

Years later, Frank has made something of himself by working for Dublin's undercover squad and almost completely separating himself from his family. One Friday in December, Frank begins a normal weekend by dropping by his ex-wife Olivia's house to pick up their daughter Holly for a weekend visit. The former couple is the opposite of one another. Frank is rough around the edges and outspoken; Olivia is demur, proper, and now completely intolerant of Frank's attempts to rile her. As Frank waits for Holly to gather her stuffed animals and other belongings, he teases Olivia about her date with a stuffy friend named Dermot.

After he has packed Holly into her car seat and headed toward his apartment near the quay, Frank promises the girl that he will take her to fly her kite, but when he arrives home, his voice mail is flashing with numerous messages, and Frank knows that the messages must be from family as no one else calls him at home. He tries to preoccupy Holly by handing her his laptop and asking her to go play for a while in her room. As Frank checks his messages, he discovers that they are all from his youngest sister Jackie—really the only family member he still speaks to—and she sounds frantic. Frank calls...

(The entire section is 558 words.)

Chapter 2 Summary

Chapter 2 begins with a description of Frank's childhood neighborhood, Faithful Place. The small community consists of several row houses filled with working-class families. Frank has not returned to the old neighborhood for quite a while and maintains contact only with his younger sister Jackie.

As he nears Faithful Place, he parks a couple of blocks away and walks to his parents' house. When he enters the cramped flat, his mother greets him by criticizing his appearance, and Frank acknowledges his father and siblings who have all gathered at the family home.

Frank doesn't make small talk but instead asks first where Rosie's suitcase is. His older brother Shay directs him to it, and Frank notices all the hand prints on it. His mother admits that she tried to open the case and tells Frank that Shay used a screwdriver to pry it open.

Seeing the same screwdriver nearby, Frank grabs it and gently lifts open the lid. He is struck by the scarcity of what Rosie packed considering that she was leaving her old life behind. In addition to a couple of changes of clothing, Rosie had packed her birth certificate. With it, Frank finds their two ferry tickets to England, which had held so much promise years ago. 

As Frank emotionally drifts into a world in which Rosie is still alive, his sister Carmel brings him back to reality by asking if they should call the police. Frank tells his family that he needs to decide what to do with the evidence because he wants the case to have priority; so for now, no one contacts the police.

Later in the evening, Frank sits outside on his parents' porch with his sisters and brothers. While his sisters discuss their children, no one asks him about his little girl, Holly. Frank makes a note of this but doesn't find it unusual because he has done his best to keep his daughter away from his dysfunctional family.

As the siblings talk, they theorize about...

(The entire section is 652 words.)

Chapter 3 Summary

Frank doesn't sleep at all during his stay at his parents' house. Instead, he stares at Rosie's tiny suitcase and considers the two possible theories of why it was found in Faithful Place after all those years.

Frank had accepted Theory One many years ago: Rosie had decided to run away without him and had written the note to him. He had made peace with that note years earlier and didn't particularly want to change the theory. However, as a detective, he acknowledges that the theory doesn't work because of the discovery of the never-used ferry tickets.

Theory Two is the one that Shay and Carmel bluntly put forth: something sinister happened to Rosie on the night she was supposed to run off with Frank.

As Frank considers the two theories, his memory returns to Faithful Place twenty-two years earlier. He sees Rosie leaning on the porch railings of her parents' home with her two friends, Imelda and Mandy. The evening was just a couple of nights before he and Rosie had planned to run off, and as Rosie's friends joke with Frank, Mr. Daly makes an appearance outside. Frank greets him, but Mr. Daly ignores Frank.

Frank takes pleasure in picturing how Rosie's father will react when he wakes up the following Monday and finds Rosie gone. As Frank remembers the evening, his mind refocuses on Rosie's note. He realizes that nothing in the note designated him as the addressee. For all those years, he had assumed that it was meant for him, but now he admits to himself that it could just as easily been for the Dalys to find.

Once again in detective mode, Frank makes plans to visit the Dalys so that he can ask their permission to take the suitcase. His next step will be to find Imelda and Mandy to see if they remember anything about Rosie's demeanor shortly before she disappeared.

Later that morning, as Frank's mom puts an unappetizing breakfast on the table for her "boys," Frank tries to ask casually about the old inhabitants of the neighborhood. His ultimate goal is to find out where Imelda and Mandy are now. He does discover that Mandy still lives in her parents' old building and then announces that he and Kevin are going over to the Dalys with the suitcase. Mrs. Mackey isn't happy and forbids her sons to go before finishing their breakfast, but both of them quickly get ready and head toward Rosie's parents' house.

On the way to the Dalys', Frank ponders the tense relationship between his family and the Dalys. He knows that some of it stems from Mr. Daly's sense of superiority. While he maintained his stable job at Guinness's, Frank's dad wandered from one day job to another in...

(The entire section is 1085 words.)

Chapter 4 Summary

After Frank and his brother Kevin leave the Daly home, Frank sends Kevin back to their parents' house to bear the brunt of their mother's wrath. Kevin, once again the loyal younger brother, reluctantly agrees to return home.

Frank does not divulge to Kevin that his real motive for sidelining him is to keep their mother busy so that she does not have time to tell anyone in the neighborhood about Rosie's suitcase. His plan is to store the suitcase safely in his trunk before heading over to Rosie's friend Mandy's house to question her about Rosie's demeanor before her disappearance.

When Mandy opens her door to Frank, she seems to be the only one in all of Faithful Place who is unequivocally happy to see him. She warmly invites him in, and Frank takes in her very lived-in home. With two young girls, Mandy has her hands full, but she has managed to maintain a cheerful outlook on her modest life in the old neighborhood.

At first, she and Frank make small talk and laugh about their youthful days. As a veteran investigator, Frank knows how to make Mandy feel comfortable talking to him even though he has been absent from her life for so long. Mandy tells him about her husband, a chef, and how she and he have essentially become younger versions of their parents. 

After catching up on over two decades worth of history, Frank allows Mandy to direct the conversation to Rosie. She rather sheepishly asks him if he ever heard from Rosie. Frank casually responds that he never did, and Mandy admits that her one-time best friend never contacted her either.

She confesses to Frank that she had figured out that he and Rosie were planning on running off together, but not because Rosie had betrayed their secret. Rosie had been acting strangely shortly before she disappeared, and Mandy eventually discerned that she had made the decision to break away from Faithful Place and begin a new life. Rather than...

(The entire section is 519 words.)

Chapter 5 Summary

After leaving Mandy's home, Frank returns to his parents' flat to find his brother Kevin outside on the porch. Kevin has managed to keep their mother from telling everyone in the neighborhood about Rosie's suitcase; so Frank begins to run some of his theories by Kevin. He asks his brother how Rosie could get out of her house at night if her father had locked the front door and kept the key. Kevin speculates that it would have been possible for her to go out the back and climb over several garden walls to get out onto the street. As the brothers discuss Rosie's possible escape routes, Frank's mind returns to the night of Rosie's disappearance. He recalls that as he waited for her outside of Number 16, he had heard a couple and, at...

(The entire section is 828 words.)

Chapter 6 Summary

As the members of the morgue department from Frank's precinct arrive at the crime scene, so does the murder squad. Frank has mixed feelings when he sees who is heading up the investigationMick "Scorcher" Kennedy. Scorcher and Frank trained together, and although Scorcher is annoying, Frank believes it might be beneficial to have him on the case because of his competitive and dogged nature, which will cause him to give the case his full attention even if it is decades old.

Frank decides that it is in the case's best interest to be honest with Scorcher, so he approaches him and tells him about his connection to Rosie. He then entrusts Scorcher with the fingerprints he collected and Rosie's suitcase....

(The entire section is 471 words.)

Chapter 7 Summary

Frank's siblings allow him several hours to come to grips with the discovery of Rosie's remains earlier that day, but then they begin to trickle into the bar to check on him. Frank's oldest sister, Carmel, admits that their mother sent them.

Kevin lightens the mood by teasing Caramel about her drink choice, and as they are laughing, Shay walks in. The brothers and sisters think it will be fun to get Shay to order Caramel's girlie drink, but he has no problem with it. They observe the confidence with which he approaches the bar and realize that this is his "local." When Shay returns to the table, the conversation returns to more serious matters such as the siblings' dysfunctional family and Rosie's alleged murder....

(The entire section is 509 words.)