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Broken Harbor Hardcover – July 24, 2012
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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
"One of the most talented crime writers alive."
— The Washington Post
“Ms. French created 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.”
— 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 lists — it’s definitely at the top of mine.”
— The Associated Press
"Broken Harbor is truly a book for, and of, our broken times. It's literature masquerading as a police procedural."
— The Cleveland Plain Dealer
“French has that procedural pro's knack for making mundane police work seem fascinating. And she's 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 [French’s] 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
“The fourth book in Tana French’s brilliant, genre-busting series about the (fictitious) Dublin Murder Squad . . . Invoking atmosphere is one of French’s particular gifts, and in this department, Broken Harbor (the name of the town before the developers got hold of it) is a tour de force.”
— Laura Miller, Salon.com
“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. Sometimes, it's not even clear whodunit. Her novels have been translated into 31 languages, with 1.5 million copies in print . . . Broken Harbor has the hallmarks of a standard police procedural: a cocky homicide detective with a troubled past who educates his younger partner with pat lessons; a shocking crime that seems to defy explanation; a heart-stopping twist at the end. But 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
“Both the characters and the crime command attention, page by page.”
— New York Daily News
“French's flair for setting and its influence on characters, as well as her elegant prose, shine in Broken Harbor. The emptiness of Brianstown becomes the modern equivalent of the spooky mansion, complete with things that go bump in the night . . . French expertly shows the importance of connecting with each other, and how fragile those bonds can be.”
— South Florida Sun-Sentinel
"Salon.com’s Laura Miller has this advice for anyone who has not yet read EVERY Tana French novel, 'Just go out and get them right now.'”
— NPR's Weekend Edition
“Part police procedural, part psychological thriller, all fun.”
— People ("Great Summer Reads")
“French’s eloquently slow-burning fourth Dublin murder squad novel shows her at the top of her game . . . As usual, French excels at drawing out complex character dynamics.”
— Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Each of French’s novels (Faithful Place, 2010) offers wonderfully complex and fully realized characters . . . French has never been less than very good, but Broken Harbor is a spellbinder.”
— Booklist (starred review)
“A mystery that is perfectly in tune with the times . . . [French] continues to distinguish herself with this fourth novel, marked by psychological acuteness and thematic depth . . . There are complications, deliberations and a riveting resolution.”
— Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Top customer reviews
Caution: The nature of this murder is a family bloodshed. If you are not comfortable with the setting, I do not recommend you read this novel. It is very intense and the reason behind the crime can be overwhelming. When I started this novel, I was not really conscious about the type of murder. Frankly, I did not know what I was getting myself into. I just had finished book# 3 in the series and just wanted to catch up with her novels before her next release. I was struggling with it, and it even crossed my mind to not finish it but I have to give it to Tana French. She is a master in her genre of psychological mystery and you are so captivated in the story, that you are imprisoned to finish it despite you being driven crazy.
Let me start by saying that this is the first awkard 5 stars rated novel of the year that I did not foresee. I was shocked, wrecked, anxious, uncomfortable. This is by far the most suspenseful, frantic,and restless reading without a breather I have bump into. Not once could I predict the course of events nor whodunit, not once. This is how good Tana French is. And to top it all, the novel ends with this air of unresolve aspect that is so unique to the author, leaving you with this feeling of contradiction: faint hope that it may work or uncertainty, that it may not pull through.
What kept me going was the fact that this novel is linked to the struggles of our present times : unemployment, housing crisis and this is a novel that present us with a possible tragedy of what happens when one is stuck in such circumstances. What happens when people loose their work which represent their identity, purpose in life. It really makes you reflect and realize that it could happen to anyone who is not surrounded by family, does not look for help during these tough times nor have a support system. At the end, I look at it as some sort of awareness.
Tana French’ mystery novels sucks your brain taking you on a journey of harsh and inexplicable reality where you are left in the limbo somehow because knowing the truth is not enough; you can never rely on the system to bring justice due to its politics and agendas. The murders are always linked somehow to the detectives’ life traumatic incident which put them in an interior battle with their fears, and the inexplicable. In addition, the murder comes out of their hands, like this unreachable monster that no one can fully grasp nor fully resolve. It’s portraying the complexities of life that not everything we can comprehend nor have fully control of the outcomes. In the end, the cases always manage to crumble them.
This novel reminded me a little of her first novel, “In the Woods”, which is still my favorite in the series.
Note: I recommend you read this series in order. We previously meet detective Kennedy in book# 3, “Faithful Place”, where he was the head detective investigating Frank’s old girlfriend murder. We observe the contrast of ideology: Scorcher is all about following the rules while Frank, being an undercover detective, is innovative and always resolve his cases out of the box, out of the grid of the system.
[Message of the novel:]
“Just about everything in this life is treacherous, ready to twist and shape-shift at any second; it seemed to me that the whole world would be a different place if you had someone you were certain of, certain to the bone, or if you could be that to someone else.”
French, Tana (2012-07-24). Broken Harbor: A Novel (Dublin Murder Squad) (p. 425). Penguin Group US. Kindle Edition.
Alas, this book fell a bit short of the expectations I had of her based on her other books. What started out as a promising and engrossing crime story quickly flattened out in sea of not-quite-baked characters and psychological motives that simply did not seem quite believable, particularly given the setting for this book in today's Dublin (or nearly, since it was released in 2012).
As one other reviewer her stated, I found myself wondering repeatedly if a) they actually had mental health services in Ireland and b) if people actually used these services. As a citizen of the US, I assume that any 1st-world country with socialized medicine would make access to such mental healthcare much more readily available to all citizens, regardless of means. (Perhaps that's naive.).
A number of key characters displayed disturbing mental health traits, as observed by the reader as well as other characters in the book. However, not a single one of these characters actually sought out treatment or were nudged (or shoved) into it by said family/friends. We as readers were supposed to just accept that the characters in the story would simply accept the increasingly bizarre, dangerous, and escalating behavior in their loved ones without a mention of "Hey, perhaps you'd like to talk to someone about that?"
I honestly kept wondering if I was reading a novel set 50-60 years ago, where an obviously bi-polar young woman is simply running through the streets of Dublin without her family every considering a medical intervention, and another character seemingly approached a psychotic break in a very short time (after NO history whatsoever of mental illness or any serious trauma to trigger it).
I guess it's *possible* that there would be such a perfect constellation of dysfunction in Dublin's middle-to-upper class folks that such scenarios would be possible, but French seemed to be asking the reader to swallow a lot of dysfunction for the sake of a story. And that's where it feel apart for me.
I highly recommend French's first two books, but I'd say this one is skippable unless you feel you must read every one in her Dublin Murder Squad series.