Monday, August 20, 2012

Review: Broken Harbor

Summary: The mesmerizing fourth novel of the Dublin murder squad by New York Times bestselling author Tana French

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.

With her signature blend of police procedural and psychological thriller, French’s new novel goes full throttle with a heinous crime, creating her most complicated detective character and her best book yet. -- Viking

I have finally experienced the wonder of Tana French! I know, I know. It's taken me way too long to read one of her novels, and now that I've finished BROKEN HARBOR, I want to read every single one of her books! She is, like, totally amazing!

BROKEN HARBOR tells the story of Mick Kennedy, a Dublin homicide cop, who, along with his rookie partner Richie, end up with a huge murder case. A family of four who lives in Broken Harbor, a half-finished luxury resort neighborhood, is found brutally attacked -- the father and two children are dead, while the mother is hanging on for her life. Of course, the primary suspect is the husband; however, Kennedy and Richie begin to notice that there are a few unexplained occurrences like a half dozen baby monitors, holes in the walls, missing files from the family computer, and signs of an intruder. Pretty crazy, right?

In the meantime, all of this investigating at Broken Harbor is bringing back memories for Kennedy from his troubled childhood; and his kid sister Dina, who isn't the most stable of individuals in normal times, is close to going over the edge with all the talk of Broken Harbor. Kennedy must deal with his family responsibilities and also discover who's responsible for these gruesome murders. It's an extremely complex case that even has Kennedy questioning his killer instincts.

BROKEN HARBOR is the fourth novel of the Dublin Murder Squad series (I think I have two of the other ones- yay!), and it totally works as a stand-alone. So, what I'm saying, is if you are like me and haven't read a French book yet, you can start with her latest and then go back and catch-up. There were definitely a few references to Kennedy's past (he appears in FAITHFUL PLACE), but they were pretty vague and I suspect that they weren't major spoilers.

What can I really say about BROKEN HARBOR that hasn't already been said (and said better!) I absolutely loved this book and I think it even exceeded my expectations. Tana French is a skilled storyteller and had my brain reeling the entire time I read her novel. I had absolutely no idea where she was going to take me, but I certainly knew I wanted to be along for the ride!

There are so many outstanding things about BROKEN HARBOR that I hardly know where to start. I adored the mystery aspect of the novel. There were so many twists that I could hardly keep them straight, and I honestly wasn't sure who was trustworthy. In addition, I loved seeing learning about the crime and the suspects through Kennedy and his partner's eyes while they were working the crime. And as far as endings go, I can guarantee that you will be shocked with the outcome of this novel for quite a few reasons. Even if you think you have an inkling of where this one is going, I bet you don't!

Another really special thing about BROKEN HARBOR was the character development. I found Kennedy to be such an honest and real character, and I know that's a testament to Ms. French's writing. There is no doubt that Kennedy was complex (and not always likable!), but he just seemed to genuine; and I loved him for that. What really impressed me, though, was how well the author balanced all aspects of Kennedy's life -- from his talent as a police detective, to his training skills with his rookie partner, to his personal life with his sister, etc. This novel wasn't just about Kennedy solving a crime; and that's was brought it to the next level for me.

I loved how Kennedy went about finding the murderer in BROKEN HARBOR, but I also deeply appreciated that this novel addressed some other very serious issues. Mental illness was a biggie in this story, and I thought Ms. French did an outstanding job of showing the difficulties and responsibilities that family members face when dealing with a mentally ill individual. In addition, Ms. French tackled the very relevant issue of Ireland's economic decline in this story. Through the setting of Broken Harbor as well as the references to layoffs and job losses, the author showed how much this downturn has affected young peoples' lives. And finally, Ms. French takes a look at how our childhoods can affect our future actions.

Honestly, this novel is just so well written. I swear if it were just a murder mystery, I would have been impressed, but when I consider how much Ms. French accomplished with her social commentary, I'm truly blown away. It's rare that I read a suspense/thriller or mystery that is this smart. Not only did BROKEN HARBOR have me scratching my head over the mystery and even giving me the willies a few times, but it also made me think!

I would love to be part of a book club discussion for BROKEN HARBOR. The mystery is intriguing, but the characters are also fascinating. There is a reading guide available with eleven thought-provoking questions. Some of the topics you might want the explore include motivations, self-control, prejudices, responsibilities, family dynamics, a struggling economy, mental illness, luck, forgiveness, acceptance, and redemption.

Overall, BROKEN HARBOR is one of the best books that I've read this summer. Highly recommended for fans of mysteries and psychological thrillers.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.

Mystery Mondays is a regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read.


Sandy Nawrot said...

Yay, you have now consumed the Tana French Koolaid! She is absolutely phenomenal. She is one of the few authors that have gone on the list of "I would have their children". She writes amazing characters with realistic chemistry, she takes paths that aren't easy or predictable, and is so, so smart. In the land of mystery fiction, this is very hard to find. I am waiting, VERY PATIENTLY, for the audio to arrive from the library. Her audios are so mind-blowing.

bermudaonion said...

I swear I'm so behind on all the hot titles and authors. Ti sent me In the Woods years ago and I still haven't read it. I wish I could read as fast as you do!!

Beth Hoffman said...

Oh no ... yet ANOTHER book to add to my list? LOL

Terrific review, Julie. I'm eager to read it. Happy Monday!

Serena said...

I still have not read her book, but I will get to one of her books someday.

Beth F said...

I skipped to your last paragraph because I have this book waiting for me. I haven't read any of French's books yet, but I'll start with this.

Journey2Goal said...

Tana French is one of my all time favorite authors! I have this one waiting for me on my nook:)

Journey2Goal said...

Tana French is one of my all time favorites! I have this one waiting for me on my nook!