Review: Broken Harbor by Tana French

Broken Harbor by Tana French
Release Date: July 19, 2012
Publisher:  Hodder
Pages: 533
Source:  Publisher

In Broken Harbor, a ghost estate outside Dublin – half-built, half-inhabited, half-abandoned – two children and their father are dead. The mother is on her way to intensive care. Scorcher Kennedy is given the case because he is the Murder Squad’s star detective. At first, he and his rookie partner, Richie, think this is a simple one: Pat Spain was a casualty of the recession, so he killed his children, tried to kill his wife Jenny, and finished off with himself. But there are too many inexplicable details and the evidence is pointing in two directions at once. Scorcher’s personal life is tugging for his attention. Seeing the case on the news has sent 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 Harbour, back when they were children. The neat compartments of his life are breaking down, and the sudden tangle of work and family is putting both at risk . . .


Review:  This book absorbed me and literally claimed my attention until the last satisfying word. Murder Detective Mick ‘Scorcher’ Kennedy is what you might call (in Dublin at least) a sound man. He has it all covered from every angle. As he says himself, if he’s working on a case, it’s getting done right. He’s brash, confident and focused. But the case of a young family, found slaughtered in a house in a ghostly, half abandoned housing estate which came up in Dublin during the boom a few years back affects him deep down in places he thought were sealed and locked forever.

What happened to Pat and Jenny Spain on that fateful night? They’d more or less kept out of touch and kept their contact with friends and relatives more or less to the minimum after Pat lost his job. What brought about the undoing of a couple so much in love with two beautiful kids? As Scorcher embarks on a journey of discovery, he comes up against his own painful experiences with Broken Harbor, the place where this murder happened, many years before.

I particularly loved the dialogue in the novel. The Irish have a sense of humor that can laugh in the face of death and it comes out beautifully here. The conversation between Scorcher and the technical expert who comes to examine the scene of the crime is hilarious. Scorcher tells the man: ‘We’ve got enough blood spatter to keep you happy for weeks.’ ‘Oh, lovely,’ comes the reply. Sounds awful, doesn’t it? But methinks deep down, that’s the kind of humor which helps a person to keep their sanity, especially when they’re staring death in the face every other day. ‘One more bedsit overdose and I think I’d have died of boredom.’ That’s the technical expert again. But as Scorcher unravels the story of the crime, slowly and painstakingly, we realize it’s going to take a lot more than a black sense of humor to get him through.

Crime thriller though it is, it’s very much a comment on the scene in a country reeling from the effects of a recession. The gloom, the soul destroying hopelessness in what was, a few short years ago, a land of plenty and prosperity. Tana French’s books tend to leave you with much to think about. My prayer for Ireland during this time would be that the recession will heal and people will get their lives back again. My wish for Scorcher, were he real and not a figment of an author’s imagination would be that he and his family get some closure and healing for their past tragedies and that Scorcher can meet the right woman, preferably someone who already has grown up kids (as his marriage broke up because he didn’t want any) who can give him the back rubs and the listening ear he so badly needs when he comes home from saving the world.

Favorite Quote:  “Let’s get one thing straight; I was the perfect man for this case.”

“Let’s get another thing clear, while we’re at it; I am bloody good at my job. I still believe that. I’ve been on the Murder Squad for ten years, and for seven of those, ever since I found my feel, I’ve had the highest solve rate in the place. This year I’m down to second, but the top guy got a run of slam-dunks, domestics where the suspect practically slapped the cuffs on his own wrists and served himself up on a plate with applesauce.”