Review: Broken Harbor by Tana French

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BrokenHarborBroken Harbor by Tana French (Viking, 2012)

Blurb: Mick “Scorcher” Kennedy plays by the book and plays hard. That’s what’s made him the murder squad’s top detective—and that’s what puts the biggest case of the year into his hands.

On one of the half-built, half-abandoned “luxury” developments that litter Ireland, Patrick Spain and his two young children are dead. His wife, Jenny, is in intensive care.

At first, Scorcher and his rookie partner, Richie, think it’s going to be an easy solve. But too many small things can’t be explained. The half dozen baby monitors, their cameras pointing at holes smashed in the Spains’ walls. The files erased from the Spains’ computer. The story Jenny told her sister about a shadowy intruder who was slipping past all the locks.

And Broken Harbor holds memories for Scorcher. Seeing the case on the news sends his sister Dina off the rails again, and she’s resurrecting something that Scorcher thought he had tightly under control: what happened to their family one summer at Broken Harbor, back when they were children.

 

This book is like the big bad wolf. It draws you in to a nice cozy cottage with promises of hot chocolate and a warm fire, gets you all bundled up and cozy, then pulls off its mask to reveal its truly wicked, sharp teeth.

Mick Kennedy, the central character, appeared briefly in the previous books in this series before taking center stage in Broken Harbor. He’s a cop who sees things in black and white; he may never be able to create order from chaos, but he’ll never stop trying. When he and his rookie partner are assigned to investigate the murder of a young family in a seaside housing development, Kennedy’s primary question is why. He begins with Why would someone murder this picture-perfect family and moves on to Why would someone punch holes in these brand-new walls, then clean up around them but not patch them and eventually Why are video monitors strategically placed beside these holes, and what was being recorded? What went on in this house?

The area now calling itself Brianstown was previously Broken Harbor, where Kennedy’s family rented a caravan for two weeks every summer. And just as homeowners lined up to buy homes based on glossy brochures showing model houses and then found themselves in a half-built ghost town when the Irish economy collapsed and the builders abandoned the development, Kennedy’s perception of Broken Harbor as the one place that made his mother happy was forever changed when she walked into the ocean one night and never returned. He arrives at the murder scene with a sense of betrayal that carries over into the investigation, which is only complicated by the arrival of his sister Dina, who never recovered after their mother’s suicide. His new partner Richie has his doubts about the guilt of their prime suspect, and it’s partly because of this that Kennedy is compelled to keep digging, trying to find the answer to his question: Why?

The first half of the book is interesting, as French sets up the crime and the crime scene, and provides the procedural details that allow Kennedy and Richie to find a viable suspect, but in the second half of the book you get the payoff. Little things that seemed tangential suddenly are put into context, and when the consequences of everyone’s actions become obvious, the overall picture is breathtaking.

As with her previous books, Tana French is able to create a unique and multidimensional character at the center of a complex crime investigation where no ground is as solid as it appears. The crime itself is almost a secondary concern to French; this book is an investigation into the dark side of the human psyche, and it’s very dark indeed.

 

My rating: 5 stars

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  1. Pingback: TBR Thursday 6… | FictionFan's Book Reviews

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