Customer Review

76 of 86 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another winner from Tana French, July 24, 2012
This review is from: Broken Harbor: A Novel (Dublin Murder Squad) (Hardcover)
After more than 6 months filled with disappointments that came like blows from my favorite authors (Bitterblue, Holier Than Thou, Gone Girl, The Calling), I thought I couldn't count on any of my precious to deliver the goods. Apparently, I can still rely on Tana French to keep up her standards. Broken Harbor is not maybe my favorite novel of hers (I think Faithful Place is), but definitely not weaker than any of her previous works.

All her books are psychological thrillers, not fast-paced, not action-packed, but slow-moving and interrogation-heavy, and Broken Harbor sticks to the same format. At first, I intended to say it was possibly the "most psychological" out of her psychological thrillers, and the most crazy-driven. However, if I look back, all her novels without fail explore the depths of human mind, power of memories and their effect on investigative work, and involve mentally unstable characters.

Like detectives in all previous books in Dublin Murder Squad series, the chief investigator Mick (Scorcher) Kennedy is full of mental baggage of his own (who doesn't have it though?). I have only the vaguest memory of him from Faithful Place, so he is almost a completely new personality to get to know within the framework of this series. Behind Scorcher's unwavering, never-failing, upright cop facade, there is a lot of tension and a lot of self-control that come only to people who have battled through serious life challenges and learned to cope by keeping themselves tightly guarded and emotionally removed. Even though Scorcher has dealt with most of his childhood traumas, he is not free of them. His half-mad, volatile sister is a constant reminder of past dealings with mental illness and a disturber of his peace.

When Scorcher dives into investigation of the assault of the Spain family, French, as you would expect, pushes him into facing the darkest corners of his memory. Gradually learning of the economical and psychological demise of the Spains, Kennedy finds it hard to watch the parallels between the Spains' and his own family's stories. Will he be able to keep his cool and stay objective, not let his personal feelings influence the investigation? You'll just have to read and see.

The murderer in this case is fairly obvious and pretty early in the book, I would say. The pool of suspects is just too small. But the pleasure of unpacking this novel is not exactly in knowing who, but why and how. This is where the leisurely pace and lengthy interrogations work the best - you have an opportunity to get into all the suspects' minds, and what's inside is not pretty - psyches ravaged by strains of financial hardship, instability, uncertainty and, surprise! online bullying (of sorts). How current!

It is interesting that Broken Harbor has a very similar setting as Gone Girl - a well-to-do family loses financial security, and almost immediately loses its integrity, both material and psychological. But where Flynn's characters annoyed me with their, what I perceived, self-entitled whining, French's characters made me live through their difficulties as if they were my own.

I know, this review is kind of vague, I tiptoe around the subject a lot, trying not to spoil the reveals, but just know this - Broken Harbor is a story a picture-perfect family that crumbles under the weight of money problems and a desire to save public face at all cost. And this story is horrifying and sad.
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Tracked by 5 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 11 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jul 28, 2012 2:42:12 PM PDT
RSProds says:
Great, thorough review. I can buy this with confidence. Thanks.

Posted on Jul 30, 2012 12:58:24 AM PDT
I prefer a large pool of suspects.

Posted on Jul 30, 2012 7:07:32 PM PDT
I greatly enjoyed Tana French's three previous novels, which seem to me more richly observed and psychologically searching than just about any other crime fiction being written today. (Her model seems to be Dennis Lehane's masterful "Mystic River.") What she's particularly good at is exploring the dark side of Irish innocence - first love ("Faithful Place," her finest work), communal love ("The Likeness"), boyhood pack-love ("In the Woods") - under fatal threat from deceit and social dislocation. In "Broken Harbor" the innocence is that of a budding partnership between a domineering veteran detective in the Dublin Police murder squad and a young rookie. The case that brings them together is a horrific assault on a young upwardly mobile family whose fortunes - and their ghostly, half-built housing estate - have suddenly plummeted in the Great Recession. French deftly puts all the pieces on the table of what promises to be her most complex thriller to date. But here she seems to have succumbed to the Irish gift for gabbiness. The argumentative talk between the preachy veteran detective and his more emotionally exposed protege goes on and on, as do the "confessions" of various prime suspects. French has a great ear for dialogue, but she overuses it to preposterous effect. By the time I began to realize just how everything was going to turn out, I lost patience with the string of verbose confrontations that seemed more the product of a TV writer's imagination than that of a novelist. If her latest is any indication, Tana French needs an editor who can get her back on track with revelations that unfold the way life does - messily and inarticulately. No one under the stress that her characters go through can talk the way these people do - not even the Irish.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 31, 2012 4:32:49 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 31, 2012 4:33:19 AM PDT
janebbooks says:
A great review Charles M. Now how would you rate the read?

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 31, 2012 12:00:38 PM PDT
I'll give it 3 stars since it more than kept me intrigued until the last third.

Posted on Aug 5, 2012 4:18:08 PM PDT
A. Brookes says:
I too only had a vague remembrance about Scorcher from FAITHFUL PLACE, in fact I was reading the reviews to see if I was right about him. This takes nothing away from BROKEN HARBOR, the fourth of Tana French's Dublin Murder Squad books. All four books link together, and all four are great on their own. She is one of my favorite authors and BROKEN HARBOR does not disappoint.

Posted on Aug 12, 2012 5:55:13 AM PDT
literagent says:
I have been trying to decide to read Gone Girl or Broken Harbor first and the above review has settled that question for me--definitely Broken Harbor. I have loved French's 3 earlier novels, probably Faithful Place being my favorite, and have turned a lot of friends on to her. I'll get back to you when I've finished BH. Ann Elphick (

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 12, 2012 6:00:40 AM PDT
literagent says:
Readers continue to say that they have a vague recollection of Scorcher. I don't understand this, he's has been fully delineated in Faithful Place and the nemesis of Frances Mackey from the beginning of their careers, which began simultaneously. He is totally unlikable and I will report back after I've read Broken Harbor, which I'm about to do.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 11, 2012 11:56:08 AM PDT
L. Taylor says:
Charles M, your thoughts reflect the way I felt about the book. Broken Harbor is the only novel I've read by French and it does seem verbose! Richie's behavior and the coincidences that followed are off-putting and hard to believe as well. I thought Gone Girl was a much more exciting read!

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 2, 2012 4:00:41 PM PDT
Booknut says:
So, did you read both novels? I preferred Broken Harbor, although I reversed the order from you, and read Gone Girl first.
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