Saturday, November 3, 2012

Broken Harbor by Tana French

Tana French is one of those authors that everybody likes that I've been meaning to try and meaning to try forever and ever.  Enter one of the perks of being a book blogger.  While I was busy being a lazy slacker not reading all the books I should be and mean to be reading right now, I was getting an e-mail offering me a copy of French's latest, Broken Harbor, part of her series about the crime-fighters of the Dublin Murder Squad.  Usually I'm a stickler for reading series books in order, even when everybody says you don't need to, which is why it often peeves me so much to be pitched a book that is, oh you know, fourth in a series. Sometimes I can get past that whole "series in order" rule, and I'm glad I did this time around, because Broken Harbor stood well enough alone, though I'm sure there were extra tidbits that I could have picked up had I read the previous books. 

When Pat and Jenny Spain bought their house in the up-and-coming development in Broken Harbor, they were sure they were taking the first step to living the dream, and for a while it seemed so.  Pat and Jenny had what looked, to outsiders, like a perfect life - two kids, a good job, a fancy SUV, and a nice well-kept house.  Then came the financial collapse that took Pat's job and stopped construction on the luxury development leaving it a crumbling, underpopulated shell of the dream community that was intended.  The Spains grow more and more isolated trying to keep up appearances despite the odds until the day when Jenny's sister discovers the whole family brutally murdered in their home.  Broken Harbor centers on by-the-book detective Mick "Scorcher" Kennedy and his rookie partner Richie Curran as they attempt to unearth the secrets surrounding the heinous murder of a whole family.

Kennedy is a compelling character.  Gruff and a little pompous on the outside with his every action calculated to portray the right image, Kennedy's doesn't at first appear to be a very lovable guy, but his by-the-book approach does put criminals in jail.  The case in Broken Harbor brings out the demons of his past that won't stay buried.  As he tries to deal with his sister, who, he says, is "crazier than a bag of cats," initiate his new partner to the job, and capture a brutal killer, Mick's coming apart at the seams and French's book allows us a good look inside a character who is much more than meets the eye.

I loved Broken Harbor.  I loved that it didn't oversimplify what's involved in solving a crime.  It gets down into the nuts and bolts of the investigation instead of glossing over them in search of a few cheap thrills and twists.  It reminds us that there are tactics to interrogation and that sometimes solving a crime involves more sleepless nights of fruitless stakeouts than it does exciting breakthroughs.  Just the same, it doesn't get bogged down in too much detail. Rather, it explores an elaborate mystery with several unexpected dynamics that keep pages turning and readers guessing as it becomes apparent that there's no simple or obvious solution to what when on at the Spains' on that fateful night.  Even better, though, is the fact that French takes what could be "just" a murder mystery and turns it on its head to draw out a rich character study that puts the investigating detective front and center among the very vivid and varied cast of characters that populate the rest of the novel. 

I heartily recommended Broken Harbor, and if this is what I can expect from French's work, I can't wait to crack open the other books in the series!

(Many thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for my honest review)


  1. I've had French's first book for a while and really need to get going with this series.

  2. I know what you mean. This is the first book I read in that series, but have acquire the first 3 and hope to dive in soon. Glad u loved it.

  3. You know what's funny? BROKEN HARBOR is not even French's best book (IMHO, anyway). That's how awesome she is. I hope you enjoy all her other ones, too!

  4. I really need to read her (yes, I sound like I'm quoting your first paragraph).

  5. Great review. I enjoyed this one a lot too. It was my first Tana French but it won't be my last!

  6. Ooooh, I neeeed this! I have French's other books and have loved them all, and judging by your description is is just as good.

  7. I found Broken Harbor a WOW! book and was delighted to find her. I do want to read her other books.

    Marlene Detierro (Air Medical Transport)