Broken Harbor is Tana French’s fourth book. Her first one, In The Woods, won Edgar, Macavity, Anthony, and Barry awards for best debut novel. I’ve read each of her books as they’ve come out.
As I stated in an earlier post, Tana French’s books do not have the same main character’s and narrators. However, they are all connected. Each book features a detective from the Dublin murder squad. Since all of them are about the Dublin murder squad, the main character of each did play a role, or we met them, in a previous book.
At first I was skeptical of reading another book of her’s that did not feature the same character as the last. However, I’ve since learned to love this about her books. I love the different perspectives, and learning how each character has a different reason and driving force behind why they are working the murder squad. The characters are just so flawed and engaging.
In each of her books there is an element of the main murder investigation that connects the lead detective to the past in some way. In this novel the location of the murder, Broken Harbor, is very significant to Mick “Scorcher” Kennedy’s past. That ‘s all I’m going to say about this. I love how French unfolds the story of his past in the book, and I do not want to ruin the journey for those of you who are going to read it.
The murder in this book is actually a quadruple homicide. Two children and their parents have been killed. However, the children were killed in a completely different manner from the parents. There are some bizarre elements to this crime as well. For example, it clear that the young, middle class couple took care of their home. It is well decorated and clean. However, several of the walls have gaping holes in them. These holes have been tidied up and the area around them is clean. A few are hidden discreetly by furniture. Yet, it is odd that a couple that took such care of their home would leave holes in the walls.
Scorcher is the detective on the squad that trains in the newbies. He is the kind of detective that takes care of how he dresses. He wears nice suits, and always chooses the BMW from the carpool. He feels that how he presents himself is very important for instilling confidence, of others, in his ability. For this murder he has young Richie, who has only been on the murder squad for a few weeks. He is an inner city kid, and shows promise…for a while. The two of them seem to work well together and Scorcher starts to feel what it is like to actually have a ‘partner’. Not something he is used to.
I really don’t want to give anything away. This is a great read for those of you who like gritty detective novels. There are some wonderful psychological elements, both concerning the case, and concerning Scorcher’s life. Even if you can predict where French is going (and those of us who read a lot of mystery usually can), there are often elements, or twists, that take us by surprise. They could be big or small, but it is great to be surprised by an author, especially when you think you have it pegged.
The last thing you need to know about French, if you haven’t read her before, is that she writes real. What I mean by that is, the guy doesn’t always get the girl, the hero doesn’t always ride off into the sunset, and not everything is left right with the world. She will solve the main murder by the end of the book, but there are other elements of the story that will be left hanging, unanswered, with no closure. This, to me, is writing real. Rarely is everything tied up neatly in a bow with real life. I love, and treasure, this about her books. However, I have many friends who are totally frustrated by this, despite liking the book. So, if you think you fall into this category…read warily.