Review: Broken Harbor by Tana French

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult (July 24, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 0670023655
  • Source: Publisher (via Netgalley)

In a half-developed neighborhood of McMansions, the bodies of Patrick Spain, his wife Jenny, and their two children are found. Patrick and the children are beyond resuscitation, but Jenny barely clings to life. Veteran Detective Mick “Scorcher” Kennedy and his rookie partner, Richie, are called in to solve a case that, on the surface, seems pretty cut and dry.  It isn’t until they enter the home, discover the strange holes in the walls with baby monitors pointing into them that the two begin to understand that this case may be more than what it seems.

A secondary story line is Scorcher’s own issues with his past. The murder takes place in a town he remembers from his childhood, back when his life was still normal, before his mother’s tragic death.  His memories of that day come rushing back; his sister Dina has never recovered mentally from her experiences.  Viewing the case on the news sends Dina into one of her emotional tirades. Scorcher is torn between his job and solving this case and the responsibility he has for Dina, and the guilt from not being able to protect her all those years ago.

In the fourth novel in the Dublin murder squad series, French returns with her trademark combination of police procedural and psychological thriller. As with previous books, French succeeds at convincing the reader he/she has solved the case, then completely upending everything to reveal a completely unexpected twist. She does this skillfully and at a measured pace, only revealing as much as necessary to keep the rhythm of the story going. The reader learns a great deal about Scorcher’s own mental stability, proving him to be a completely sympathetic and vulnerable character, despite his strong facade. Set in the middle of  the Irish economic decline, the overall feel of this novel is a sense of despair and depression.

The sheer level of vulnerability expressed in this novel, mostly on the part of Scorcher but also the secondary characters, really made this novel come alive for me. Knowing how tough Scorcher appears on the outside, it was truly rewarding to see a glimpse of his sensitive interior. All these things, plus those mentioned above, come together into a novel that very well be my favorite in the series.

If you are looking for a psychological thriller that leaves you contemplating the human condition, our motives and emotions, our strengths and our failures, this is the novel for you. Highly recommended.

5 Responses to Review: Broken Harbor by Tana French

  1. Sandy
    Twitter: youvegottaread

    I love Tana French with all of my heart. Every one of her books has blown me away. I am currently waiting on the audio from the library…those Irish accents are amazing to listen to. I’m SO looking forward to this one.

  2. Harvee
    Twitter: BookDilettante

    I just got this one and am looking forward to reading it. Enjoyed your thoughts.

  3. I’ve got one of the books in this series – I think it’s the first one. I really need to make the time to get to it. Everyone seems to love these books!

  4. Just started this one and can’t wait to read it!

  5. My review of this is posting tomorrow. I mean, wow. It was amazing. I think it’s her best one, by far, and I’ve always been partial to In the Woods. To me, the psychological aspect combined with the sheer creepiness of the crime was really impressive. Solid book.