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Bookend: Dark secrets in the liberties

That good, eh?

If you're only going to buy one thriller this year, let it be Tana French's Faithful Place. Searing, utterly Dub, and very funny.

Dub? Heart o' the rowl?

Oh, you'd better believe it. Faithful Place (the name from a long-gone northside street, but French sites hers off New Street in the Liberties) is Dublin's innermost inner city.

Me jewel and darling Dublin?

Our hero, Francis Mackey, is an undercover detective. He'd die for three things: his kid, his job and his city. Not his family, you may notice -- Francis hasn't seen them since he ran away as a teenager.

Why so?

Violent alcoholic father, sarcastic mother, brothers and sisters who tear each other apart, hopeless 1980s joblessness. Francis is well off out of it, even though he's now divorced from his Dalkey wife and only sees his darling daughter for weekends.

HE ran away?

That long-ago night, Francis and his secret love, Rosie Daly, the gorgeous copper-haired girl next door.

How so?

Matt Daly had the job in Guinnesses, and the Dalys didn't have screaming catfights in the middle of the street. Anyway, Francis and Rosie planned to leave for London. But Rosie went by herself, leaving a torn note for Francis.

Or so it seems . . ?

You're ahead of me. Now Rosie's suitcase has been found by Polish workers stripping out a fireplace from No 16, the derelict house that was spook HQ in the day.

Bad things coming?

Francis is back in the maelstrom. The vividly blue-eyed Mackeys -- Ma, a stubby barrel, snapping with energy; savage Da, now an invalid; Carmel, a softer Ma; Shay, who got a job in a bicycle shop and never moved on; Jackie, the family's axle; yuppie Kevin.

But love?

The deeper Francis goes, the darker the secrets. You'll spend your time guessing who murdered whom, and what the secret relationships are. And there are three parallel worlds: the Guards, the Dalkey marriage and the Liberties.

And it's good?

Tana French, Dublin author of international hits In the Woods and The Likeness is a wonder. She gets better every time. Just don't plan anything if you pick this up; you won't be able to put it down. > Lucille Redmond