Broken Harbor by Tana French
Dublin Murder Squad Series #4
2012 Penguin Group
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.
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.
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…