Ok so. Twenty years ago, one Frank Mackey awaited his teenaged love in the dark of night so they could flee to England and not end up barefoot and pregnant or drunk and on the dole, because that is what happens to you if you stay in Faithful Place.
BUT! Rosie never showed. Frank got his broken heart the hell out of Dodge anyways and became an undercover cop with an ex-wife and a wee daughter who he frequently disappoints on account of being an undercover cop and never home. Obviously that Rosie thing is going to come back to haunt him, and it isn’t many pages in before his sister Jackie phones all a-flutter because Something Has Been Found.
Not-really-a-spoiler-spoiler-because-this-is-a-murder-mystery: thur is a body. And then the rest of the novel is the whodunnit except it isn’t, because like all of French’s other novels the whodunnit is just the backdrop for RELATIONSHIPS!!! Horrid ones. Because the Mackeys are awful to each other (see: Frank’s 20-year absence, which becomes a bone of contention in itself), and that awfulness is familial awfulness so it is unrelenting and specific and full of entitlement. Emotional dark places indeed.
And you know I love me an emotional wringer (cf. Doomsday Book, The Sparrow), but this is why FP is not my favorite piece of French toast. Her finest asset is her charming banter, whether between Cassie and Rob or Cassie and All The People Who Think She’s Lexie, and it’s difficult to banter charmingly when you all resents the hell out of each other. It’s like if you buy a specific cake for the frosting, and if that frosting isn’t there, IT’S STILL CAKE, but man, that frosting and how you miss it.
Yet another case of This Book Is Not Fingersmith. It’s still SO GREAT. Very, very great. But given what French is capable of, it is slightly less great. Still so great! Please read the great.