Book Review: Broken Harbor by Tana French
Every so often, someone comes along who knows the insides and outsides of her genre so magnificently, it’s hard to understand just how her mind works to create such writing. For me, Tana French is that author. And, Broken Harbor is the second novel by French that is blindingly perfect in the murder mystery genre.
Broken Harbor takes Mick “Scorcher” Kennedy, a murder detective in Dublin, Ireland, and throws him back into his past: one of heartbreak, fear and then willpower. Scorcher is called to Broken Harbor, newly named Brianstown, where a family of four have been attacked, and only one survived. He and his partner Richie, the loveable character of the novel, investigate all the possibilities as to what happened to the Spains: the father, Patrick, little Emma and her younger brother Jack, and the survivor, Jenny.
But there are twists and turns, like in every good mystery, that bends the mind and makes the reader think: what is going on here?
French is a very successful writer when it comes to this style of writing. She doesn’t just look at the mystery. She looks at each character and how they got there. She looks at the situations each character get themselves in. She looks at the locations and how they are affected by time. And, that is what I love most about this novel. French shows what happens to a specific location over time, through the characters and their lives. Broken Harbor was an up-and-coming little suburb of sorts, but then the economy fell, as did the characters’ living, and then the lot of houses becomes, in so many words, haunted.
Just like in French’s three previous novels, In the Woods, The Likeness and Faithful Place, Broken Harbor is a success in so many ways, and a failure in very few.
To be honest, it was hard for me to find anything really wrong with this novel. The only thing I kept thinking about as I read the 450-page mystery was I felt French delved too deeply in the reasoning behind the holes in the Spains’ walls. However, while that was my only issue with this novel, I also felt that it was a great explanation of what happened with Patrick and Jenny Spain, as well as what places like Broken Harbor and Ireland in general are like in the throes of economic depression.
Broken Harbor is bordering on being my favorite Tana French novel; however, I still stand with her debut novel In the Woods as my favorite. Broken Harbor almost reaches that same haunting stillness as In the Woods, but only barely misses the mark. It may be a bias, as I read French’s debut novel well before Broken Harbor, but I will still say her fourth murder mystery that takes place within the fictional Dublin Murder Squad is high on my recommendations list.