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Broken Harbor: A Novel (Dublin Murder Squad) Paperback – April 30, 2013
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Amazon Best Books of the Month, July 2012: In Tana French’s fourth novel, detective Mick "Scorcher" Kennedy and his partner are sent to the abandoned, half-constructed housing development Broken Harbor to investigate the brutal murder of the Spain family. What Scorcher thinks is an open and shut case is quickly complicated when Jenny Spain is found barely alive, and the family’s circumstances are brought to light: hidden baby monitors, a strained mortgage brought on by the housing crisis, and the increasingly erratic signs of a family in crisis. French fans will appreciate this new look at Scorcher, who was a minor character in Faithful Place; he shines as the successful but jaded detective with a troubled past. French delivers a layered psychological thriller and satisfying ‘who dunnit,’ masterfully spinning a plot packed with tension and a haunting mood that rivals the best of the gothic writers. --Heather Dileepan
--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
“I’ve been enthusiastically telling everyone who will listen to read Tana French. She is, without a doubt, my favorite new mystery writer. Her novels are poignant, compelling, beautifully written, and wonderfully atmospheric. Just start reading the first page. You’ll see what I mean.”
—Harlan Coben, New York Times bestselling author
“Broken Harbor proves anew that [Tana French] is one of the most talented crime writers alive.”
—The Washington Post
“Ms. French has come to be regarded as one of the most distinct and exciting new voices in crime writing. She constructs her plots in a dreamlike, meandering fashion that seems at odds with genre's fixed narrative conventions...Ms. French undercuts expectations at every turn. The victims begin to look less like victims; the case starts to unravel and the lead detective makes compromises that could ruin him.”
--The Wall Street Journal
“Ms. French creates haunting, damaged characters who have been hit hard by some cataclysm...This may sound like a routine police procedural. But like Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, this summer’s other dagger-sharp display of mind games, Broken Harbor is something more... she has irresistibly sly ways of toying with readers’ expectations”
--Janet Maslin, The New York Times
“So much of the pleasure inherent in reading these novels is in trying to figure out where things are going and being constantly surprised, not to mention thoroughly spooked. I predict Broken Harbor will be on more than one Best of 2012 list—it’s definitely at the top of mine.”
“a tour de force.”
--Laura Miller, Salon.com
“In most crime novels, cood cops and decent people court tragedy by disobeying the rules of society. But the stories French tells reflect our own savage times: the real trouble starts when you play fair and do exactly as you’re told.”
--Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times Book Review
“French's psychologically rich novels are so much more satisfying than your standard issue police procedural...French brilliantly evokes the isolation of a Gothic landscape out of the Brontes and transposes it to a luxury suburban development gone bust. The cause, of course, is Ireland's economic free fall — the Celtic Tiger turned needy cub — and, like all superior detective fiction, French's novels are as much social criticism as they are whodunit.”
–Maureen Corrigan, NPR’s Fresh Air
“French ...[is] drawn not just to the who but also to the why — those bigger mysteries about the human weaknesses that drive somebody to such inhuman brutality. What really gives Broken Harbor its nerve-rattling force is her exploration of events leading up to the murders, rendered just as vividly as the detectives’ scramble to solve them.”
--Entertainment Weekly (A- rating)
“These four novels have instated Ms. French as one of crime fiction’s reigning grand dames — a Celtic tigress... It’s not the fashion in literary fiction these days to address such things as the psychological devastation that a fallout of the middle class can wreak on those who have never known anything else, and Ms. French does it with aplomb — and a headless sparrow and dozens of infrared baby monitors.”
--The Washington Times
“Broken Harbour is a novel, of course, but it's also a headline...it's good to see contemporary literature engaging a crisis that has had such an impact on the lives of so many. This is, in fact, what good literature does. It makes us look at our world and perhaps forces us to see what we have chosen to ignore.”
--Los Angeles Times
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Viking, Jul 24 2012, $27.95
Someone attacks a family of four at their luxurious house, one of the few completed at the Brianstown development built on Broken Harbor as construction stopped due to lack of funding. The patriarch Patrick Spain and the two children (six years old Emma and three years old Jack) are dead from stab wounds; while the mother Jennifer is in ICU struggling to survive. Dublin Police Detective Mick "Scorcher" Kennedy (support player in Faithful Place) and his partner, rookie Detective Richie Curran lead the investigation at a locale that reminds the veteran of the tragic childhood suffered by him and his emotionally disturbed sister.
They learn that Patrick was downsized so the construction halted. The two cops consider whether Jenny committed a triple murder suicide though her injuries lean towards unlikely. Kennedy and Curran consider family and friends but find no one who loathed the Spain brood nor any motive for murder. Thus they relook at the parents who seem like victims but consider perhaps one of them had snapped.
The latest Dublin Murder Squad mystery (In the Woods and The Likeness) is a superb psychological suspense police procedural. The storyline is fast-paced as readers witness the second and third order effects on Dubliners. Character driven, fans will wonder whether the matriarch is a victim or killer as Tania French provides a strong whodunit with a stunning late twist.
The narrator is Detective Mick 'Scorcher' Kennedy, a tough, flinty cop introduced in French's third novel, Faithful Place. Here he is fleshed out as a media-savvy and taciturn (and surprisingly sensitive) crackerjack detective with a reputation to fix. He is assigned to a murder that occurred in the affluent but half-abandoned suburb of Brianstown, which used to be called Broken Harbor. This is sure to be a high profile case: the fatal stabbing of a family man, Patrick Spain, and the suffocation of his two young children. His wife, Jenny, a victim of multiple knife wounds, is in critical condition at the hospital's intensive care unit.
Kennedy has a resonant family history with BH, reaching back to childhood summer vacations with his mother (who died years ago) and two sisters. One sister, Dina, is emotionally unstable, volatile and flammable, and pops in unannounced at inconvenient times. Kennedy is protective of Dina, but her labile moods and confrontational behaviors are particularly vexing to him during this investigation. Each day that he works on the case has him scratching at the past, exposing his dark torments to the light, as he gets closer to the private lives of the Spain family.
Kennedy chooses a rookie cop, Richie Curran, to help him solve the murder in an upscale housing development, one of many communities that have suffered from Dublin's economic recession. Patrick, they learn from Jenny's sister, Fiona, had been laid off from his job months ago, and the historically happy couple were challenged by recession-era fates. Does this factor into the murder? And why are there so many irregular holes in the walls?
The story unfolds gradually, with dense and convoluted character descriptions buoyed by an unhurried pace. It begins with a fact-finding mission, as all her books do, and expands its focus to a poignant examination of family, as well as the socio-economic milieu of Dublin that affects the quality of everyday lives. From the quotidian to the uncommon, French's story encompasses loss, love, and redemption, and wraps around the reader in an elaborate maze.
All the books are loosely connected by a non-narrating character from one novel showing up as the narrator in the next. In this way, nobody suffers from too much exposure (which leads to a tendency to flatten out over time). Instead, the author continues to expand on her vivid portrait of Ireland's working classes with her socially observant eye and sumptuous, moving prose.
Her talent for mining subconscious fears and desires borders on the spectral, with a finesse that keeps it real but laces it with gothic menace. For devotees longing for Rob and Cassie to return, you may be initially disappointed at their absence. However, you'll let it go once you engage in this spellbinding tale.
The prose-rich Tana French will be music to your ears. Here is how Scorcher sees the fragile, evocative beauty of Broken Harbor:
"I looked out over the water, into the night that was coming in on the tide...The beach looked like something I had seen in an old film, once upon a time; that hotheaded boy felt like a character from some book I had read and given away in childhood. Only, somewhere far inside my spine and deep in the palms of my hands, something hummed; like a sound too low to hear, like a warning, like a cello string when a tuning fork strikes the perfect tone to call it awake."
Wading across the blood-drenched crime scene, I leaned into Richie's face. "You're the rookie, so listen up - the simplest answer is usually the right one. There you go, case closed "
"But Sur" he cried in his thin, inner-City Dublin knacker's accent "we have 450 pages to fill !"
His words hit me hard in the stomach, almost doubling me over, the sharp consonants cutting strips of flesh off my body and hurtling them, spinning and writhing in to the grey darkness of the Irish Sea. I don't take advice from first-case, wet behind the ears rookies - but sometimes .... Jaysus he was right. I ..had .. to ..think.
"The computer - there's bound to be loads of the vics blogs on there - we can quote them word for word ! That's 20 pages surely ! "
"And we can throw in buckets of stuff about passwords and Internet security and deleting histories and have an IT geek with mad hair who listens to mad music " said Ritchie, rising to the challenge, " .... and about me being a knacker an all, with cousins who rob cars - sure there's loads in dat. And what about your mad sister ? "
The room spun. The floor dropped away beneath me. I struggled to keep my hold on reality, to keep myself from falling into that yawning pit of hopelessness and despair, to gather all my strength once more to fight and refight that nameless, shapeless, heartless foe that had stalked my days these twenty years. I grabbed at the tabletop, my fingers gyrating wildly in the congealed blood that coated its tortured surface. "Never.. mention.. my.. family " I whispered, my words just audible over the malevolent hum of the house, its walls crowding in on us like the howling mob at a Roman arena.
Richie paled. And deep within him, deep beneath semi-starved dirty-grey features, features hewn by the legacy of genes tortured and corrupted by generations of hunger and abuse, I could see that he raged. Raged at me, raged at my middle-class pretensions, raged at the system that always put me and my kind in charge.
"Right boss" he said, finally regaining control. He looked out of the big window, at the skeletons of half-built, half-derelict houses, the remnants of a nation's and a people's vain hopes of betterment, and turned slowly towards me. "How about if ALL the women are mad, constantly spiralling out of control, going ape-shit for no reason at all, loosin the plot like every time we ask them a question, with high-pitched, whiney voices mounting to a scream ."
"Good work ...detective. That'll do it." My heart pounded in my chest, as if its pulsing contents wished to burst out of my chest to join its cellular mates on the floor in front of me. I had almost called him Partner. After.. just.. ten.. minutes. This couldn't be happening. This shouldn't be happening. This was all wrong !!!!