Some of this information can be termed as plot spoilers, so if you’ve never read any of my Jake Talbot Investigates mystery series and would prefer to find out about Frankie as the character develops story by story, then turn away now.
When we first meet Frankie in Visiting Lilly he’s twenty-seven years old. He’s slim, very slim, one of those wiry types who’ll make you wonder if he’s undernourished. His hair is thick and dark and his eyes the colour of plain chocolate. Lilly calls him her mystical gypsy.
According to Frankie’s mother he’s bonkers, a difficult child who refused to speak and was always counting. Although I never label Frankie’s condition, there are many allusions to him sitting somewhere on the Asperger’s/autistic spectrum. He counts when doing simple tasks, he counts and rocks when stressed, and has a disconcerting habit of completely removing any sense of self, so that when standing next to him you wonder if there’s a soul inhabiting his body. Even after knowing Frankie a while, Talbot still finds this disappearing trick hard to handle.
When Frankie’s nervous he’ll start rapid-blinking, and when he’s cross or upset he’ll give you a blank stare that can look right through you. Talbot calls it his laser gaze. One of Frankie’s strongest traits is his inability to lie – so Talbot knows never to ask him a direct question unless he’s prepared to hear the absolute truth. However, it does mean that they get on well when they share their passion for antiques. If Frankie thinks it’s rubbish, he’ll say so.
Troubled and misunderstood, Frankie spent a large part of his childhood living with his grandmother, the only person who truly accepted him: until Talbot entered his life. Where others label Frankie unusual, or even unwell, Talbot accepts his quirks and admires Frankie’s exceptional mathematical abilities and perceptive mind. Talbot may not understand all of the complex maths that Frankie talks about, but he listens and respects him, knowing that Frankie’s computer programing skills are way beyond the norm.
For many years Frankie’s lived the life of a loner, writing his blog, barely interacting with the world beyond cyberspace. Forced to interact with his psychiatrist, Dr Weissman, who works for the Ministry of Defence, Frankie knows his life is constantly being monitored. As a teenager he offered to work for the military, willing to share his unique programming skills, but was rejected and labelled deluded. Now, Dr Weissman has realised that Frankie is more genius than madman and it’s his job to persuade Frankie to work for the military, every time they need his help. Only Frankie’s sick and tired of being manipulated, and has no intention of giving away his inventions.
Finding tactile contact difficult, Frankie sheds love and affection on Millie, his pretty little tortoiseshell cat. It may well be cupboard love, but he knows she’ll always be there for him.