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April 13, 2013

Broken Harbor


Broken Harbor by Tana French
Dublin Murder Squad Series #4
2012 Penguin Group
Mystery
Finished on 3/7/13
Rating: 4.75/5 (Terrific!)



 
From the Author’s Website:

Mick “Scorcher” Kennedy, the brash cop from Tana French’s bestselling Faithful Place, 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.


I don’t know why I waited so long to read this latest mystery by French. She’s become one of my favorite mystery writers, if not my favorite author altogether. With each and every new installment to the Dublin Murder Squad Series, I become a more fervent fan, recommending the books to friends, co-workers, and customers with great enthusiasm. Perhaps I was subconsciously holding off on reading the novel since I knew as soon as I was finished, I would have a long wait before I’d have the chance to read another. As it was, I slowed my pace as I read Broken Harbor, trying to stretch out the experience as long as possible, savoring each and every page, all the while very anxious to unravel the clues, eager to solve the mystery before it was revealed. Isn’t that how it goes? Don’t we mystery-lovers try to beat the detectives at their own game? Or is that just my competitive streak coming out? ;)

In addition to the psychological puzzle, I enjoyed French’s thought-provoking prose:
I hit the M1 and opened up wide, letting the Beemer do her thing. Richie glanced at the speedometer, but I knew without looking that I was bang on the limit, not a single mile over, and he kept his mouth shut. Probably he was thinking what a boring bollix I was. Plenty of people think the same thing. All of them are teenagers, mentally if not physically. Only teenagers think boring is bad. Adults, grown men and women who’ve been around the block a few times, know that boring is a gift straight from God. Life has more than enough excitement up its sleeve, ready to hit you with as soon as you’re not looking, without you adding to the drama. If Richie didn’t know that already, he was about to find out.

and
Fiona looked around wildly, like the room would vanish any second and she would wake up. It was bare concrete and sloppy mortar, with a couple of wooden beams propped against one wall like they were holding it up. A stack of fake-oak banisters covered in a thick coating of grime, flattened Styrofoam cups on the floor, a muddy blue sweatshirt balled up in one corner: it looked like an archaeological site frozen in the moment when the inhabitants had dropped everything and fled, from some natural disaster or some invading force. Fiona couldn’t see the place now, but it was going to be stamped on her mind for the rest of her life. This is one of the little extras murder throws at the families: long after you lose hold of the victim’s face or the last words she said to you, you remember every detail of the nightmare limbo where this thing came clawing into your life.

and
In every way there is, murder is chaos. Our job is simple, when you get down to it: we stand against that, for order.

I remember this country back when I was growing up. We went to church, we ate family suppers around the table, and it would never even have crossed a kid’s mind to tell an adult to fuck off. There was plenty of bad there, I don’t forget that, but we all knew exactly where we stood and we didn’t break the rules lightly. If that sounds like small stuff to you, if it sounds boring or old-fashioned or uncool, think about this: people smiled at strangers, people said hello to neighbors, people left their doors unlocked and helped old women with their shopping bags, and the murder rate was scraping zero.

Sometime since then, we started turning feral. Wild got into the air like a virus, and it’s spreading. Watch the packs of kids roaming inner-city estates, mindless and brakeless as baboons, looking for something or someone to wreck. Watch the businessmen shoving past pregnant women for a seat on the train, using their 4x4s to force smaller cars out of their way, purple-faced and outraged when the world dares to contradict them. Watch the teenagers throw screaming stamping tantrums when, for once, they can’t have it the second they want it. Everything that stops us being animals is eroding, washing away like sand, going and gone.

The final step into feral is murder. We stand between that and you. We say, when no one else will, There are rules here. There are limits. There are boundaries that don’t move.

I’m the least fanciful guy around, but on nights when I wonder whether there was any point to my day, I think about this: the first thing we ever did, when we started turning into humans, was draw a line across the cave door and say: Wild stays out. What I do is what the first men did. They built walls to keep back the sea. They fought the wolves for the hearth fire.

Final Thoughts: Another excellent page-turner by an accomplished writer! It would be difficult to choose a favorite in this series, simply because I’ve enjoyed all of them. The characters are authentic and well-drawn, and I especially liked the chemistry between Scorcher and Richie in this latest installment. I wonder if Richie will be the lead detective in French’s next novel…

20 comments:

  1. Wasn't this one so good? I was incredibly spooked by it, too, which to me, is always the best sign of a good psychological thriller. French keeps surprising me. Her series is not at all typical, and I like it that way. I've read that her next book actually brings back one of the former characters, but off the top of my head, I can't recall which one.

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    1. I was spooked by it, too. That was one creepy house. Even after I finished and knew who the killer was, I was still uncertain about the possible animal activity!

      Oooh, I can't wait for her next book. I hope Cassie returns. Or maybe all of the lead characters. Wonder how long we have to wait? Until then, I'm getting sucked into Susan Hill's "Simon Serrailler" series. Good stuff!

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  2. I read or rather listened to all the French books this year - two of them being rereads. I actually stopped listening to BROKEN HARBOR and turned to the printed version because I couldn't wait to see what happened! I love her writing. It's different, suspenseful yet gives such a great picture of life in Ireland (or at least I suppose so). I wondered about the next book too. If the next one isn't about Richie and it is about a former character, who would it be? Rob? Cassie? Frank?

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    1. I plan to eventually listen to all of her books when I'm ready to re-read them. She's quite a talented writer and I'm anxious to see what she comes up with in her next release. Meanwhile, as I mentioned to Jenn (above), Susan Hill's "Simon Serrailler" mysteries will help pass the time until French publishes her next book. Have you read any of them, Kay?

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  3. I'm not sure why I've waited so long to read any of her books - I have one of them sitting right here.

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    1. Oh, you are in for a treat. I don't really know of anyone who hasn't liked these books, although the ending of the first left some a bit disappointed. I like that fact that they aren't tied up in neat little packages.

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  4. No, I like to beat mystery writers at their own game, too, which is why I'm still made at Ms. French (for not resolving In he Woods) to my satisfaction. I admire your affection for her, Les, you're clearly more mature than I.

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    1. Oh, I doubt that. ;) Maybe you'd like one of her other books, Meredith. The Likeness was fantastic!

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  5. I liked this as well -- I was still unclear about the ending, but sometimes it is great to be able to interpret things in different ways.

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    1. That seems to be her style, don't you think? Murky, yet not convoluted finales.

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  6. After finally discovering Tana French this year, I'm happy to know the rest of the books in her series are as good as In the Woods. The Likeness is up next for me... just need to decide whether to read or listen.

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    1. As much as I enjoyed In the Woods, I think her other books are better. Or maybe I just liked the characters and plotlines better in the subsequent mysteries. Either way, I love her writing and she's become one of my favorite authors.

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  7. I have mixed thoughts about this book. Her psychological insight into the main characters is fabulous. Her reasoning for why the crime took place still bothers me. I find myself still arguing about what the killer did, now, almost two months after reading it! It disturbs me because this is where the insight failed: usually there is something in the past to indicate a failure, or depression, in real life. Otherwise, this was a very good mystery.

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    1. I see your point, Susan, and I would have to agree. Nonetheless, I still enjoyed the mystery and was able to accept the denouement.

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  8. I have book 3 to listen to on audio and can't wait to dive into it. I love this author too!!!

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    1. Lucky! I'm envious of those who are just discovering these books for the first time. My re-reads will definitely be via audio.

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  9. I just read this one last year and it was my first French. I've got the other three and can't wait to read them - but you know how hard it can be to get to the books you already have with so many new ones! I'd love to see Richie come back in the next book.

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    1. You are in for a treat! Don't wait too long to read the books. They're all winners! If you have any upcoming plans to fly, these are all great for travel. The time in the air will pass very quickly!

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  10. I thought this one was very good (as all her books are), but it didn't have enough spark for me. Love the psychological aspect to it, though. She does a fantastic job with that.

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    1. I think I know what you mean, Joy. I wonder if it was Scorcher's character. I liked him well enough, but Cassie and Frank are probably my favorite of all the detectives.

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