Category Archives: Dublin Murder Squad series

Review: Broken Harbor by Tana French


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


Review: Faithful Place by Tana French


Faithful PlaceFaithful Place by Tana French (Hodder and Stoughton, 2011)

Blurb: Tana French’s In the Woods and The Likeness captivated readers by introducing them to her unique, character-driven style. Her singular skill at creating richly drawn, complex worlds makes her novels not mere whodunits but brilliant and satisfying novels about memory, identity, loss, and what defines us as humans. With Faithful Place, the highly praised third novel about the Dublin Murder squad, French takes readers into the mind of Frank Mackey, the hotheaded mastermind of The Likeness, as he wrestles with his own past and the family, the lover, and the neighborhood he thought he’d left behind for good.

I honestly didn’t think it would be possible for me to like this book more than The Likeness. I was wrong. Faithful Place is a fantastic read.

19-year-old Frank Mackey and his girlfriend Rosie Daley were going to escape inner-city Dublin and run away to London together. Only Rosie never showed up; assuming she’d taken off without him, Frank went on with his life in Dublin, joining the police force and avoiding his family as much as possible. But he’s forced to confront all of the what-ifs and the family demons when Rosie’s suitcase is found in an abandoned house on the street where they grew up.

Part of what I like about this series is that it’s not a serial. Each book stands just fine on its own, and while there is an added dimension you get from reading them in order, you don’t get the sense you’ve missed something if you don’t read them in order. There’s a new main character in each book–with the exception of the central character, which is Dublin itself–with an entirely new perspective and history and relationships, and the author is more than capable of creating richly layered and detailed stories that are only peripherally related to the other books.

I’ll definitely keep reading these books!

My rating: 5 stars

Review: The Likeness by Tana French


The LikenessThe Likeness by Tana French (Viking Adult, 2008)

Blurb: Six months after the events of In the Woods, Detective Cassie Maddox is still trying to recover. She’s transferred out of the murder squad and started a relationship with Detective Sam O’Neill, but she’s too badly shaken to make a commitment to him or to her career. Then Sam calls her to the scene of his new case: a young woman found stabbed to death in a small town outside Dublin. The dead girl’s ID says her name is Lexie Madison (the identity Cassie used years ago as an undercover detective, and she looks exactly like Cassie.

With no leads, no suspects, and no clue to Lexie’s real identity, Cassie’s old undercover boss, Frank Mackey, spots the opportunity of a lifetime. They can say that the stab wound wasn’t fatal and send Cassie undercover in her place to find out information that the police never would and to tempt the killer out of hiding. At first Cassie thinks the idea is crazy, but she is seduced by the prospect of working on a murder investigation again and by the idea of assuming the victim’s identity as a graduate student with a cozy group of friends.

As she is drawn into Lexie’s world, Cassie realizes that the girl’s secrets run deeper than anyone imagined. Her friends are becoming suspicious, Sam has discovered a generations-old feud involving the old house the students live in, and Frank is starting to suspect that Cassie’s growing emotional involvement could put the whole investigation at risk.


I’ve always been intrigued by the concept of identity. Who determines our identity—are we who we believe we are, or are we who others believe us to be? Is it possible for someone to truly assume another person’s identity, and if so, wouldn’t that mean we are what other people project onto us, rather than the sum of our own emotions and experiences?

This is the story of four people who have developed an incredibly close bond—only one of them isn’t who the others think she is. And when Lexie Madison is found murdered near the home where she’s living and, with her friends, renovating, the police immediately realize she’s been living a lie, one they plan to continue, with the help of the undercover officer who created Lexie’s identity years ago. As Lexie, Cassie is able to slip right into the murdered girl’s life and routine, or so it seems.

Cassie is a fascinating and complex character, and French does an amazing job of keeping Lexie and Cassie completely separate even as they are unavoidably intertwined. Ireland itself, as it always is, becomes a primary character in this novel, which is almost Gothic in flavor with the old, drafty estate house as its main setting. But by far the most intriguing character in this book is Lexie, the “real” Lexie, precisely because she is entirely the product of other people’s memories. She’s lived her entire life pretending to be someone else, and French has written a remarkable psychological thriller around discovering who Lexie might actually have been.


My rating: 5 stars