Book Review #31: Broken Harbour by Tana French

7 May

*I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy of Tana French’s Broken Harbour through a Goodreads giveaway.

Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad series is fantastic, and Broken Harbour is no exception.  Mike “Scorcher” Kennedy may have been burned by Detective Frank Mackey in Faithful Place  when he tried ally with Mackey in hopes of  making a name for himself, but as the featured detective in this novel, he knocks it out of the park. When a family is brutally attacked in their home and the wife barely survives, Kennedy takes on the defining case of his career that  parallels his struggles with his bipolar sister.

Broken Harbour combined my favorite elements of French’s past novels.  Her mysteries are particularly fascinating because she narrows the field of suspects to two or three real suspects.  Here, French gives us an in depth character study of the husband, wife and their childhood friend.  You become emotionally invested in the potential suspects, and most importantly – this is no bait and switch.  There’s no random stranger or undiscovered evidence that comes in at the end and let’s everyone off the hook.  Someone you care about deeply about by the end of the story will be the killer, which only heightens the emotional impact.

And her characters feel powerfully real. This story, like many of her others, is about broken families.  There’s the obviously broken family, brutally slaughtered in their own home.  There’s Kennedy’s broken family, as he and his sister Geri struggle to finally come to terms with their mother’s suicide, and save their bipolar younger sister as she spirals out of control. There’s Jenny’s own family, and her long time group of friends, who drifted apart as Jenny realized she wanted a traditional life while her sister Fiona desperately wanted to feel unique.

Despite the familiar characters, the mystery is the main focus and French keeps the reader guessing.  Halfway through the novel you realize the protagonist, Kennedy, knows the end game already.  Yet French keeps the reader in the dark, making the reveal that much more powerful.

One criticism I’ve seen lobbed at French’s novels is that the characters can be unlikable. And they frequently are. But that’s the appeal of her writing. These are broken detectives, living tragic lives, making mistakes we all make.  When Kennedy struggles, he makes bad choices. He snaps at his partner. He ignores his mentally ill sister. He ignores possible leads due to his emotional investment.  It’s frustrating, and he is often not a good person. But in the end, he solves the crime. He gets the killer. And for me, that’s enough to absolve him for his smaller sins.

This is my favorite installment, after The Likeness. The general consensus is that the first novel, In The Woods  was the best, but I’m partial to The Likeness, the story of a detective slipping into the shoes of her recently murdered doppleganger while investigating a cult-like group of grad students. If you’d like to read the books in order, you can check out Tana French’s GoodReads page here. 


3 Responses to “Book Review #31: Broken Harbour by Tana French”

  1. ashleyunc May 7, 2012 at 5:02 pm #

    This is one book I’m really excited about coming out!

  2. ashleyunc May 7, 2012 at 5:03 pm #

    This is one book I’m really excited about coming out. Her writing is so addicting and beautiful. The Likeness was also my favorite 🙂


  1. HelloKatieO’s #CBR4 Review #31: Broken Harbour by Tana French « Cannonball Read IV - May 7, 2012

    […] Continue reading… Share this:ShareTwitterFacebookEmailDiggStumbleUpon Posted by HelloKatieO in 4 stars – a great book and tagged broken harbour, Dublin, Faithful Place: A Novel, family drama, Frank MacKey, mystery, suspense, tana french, The Likeness: A Novel, Thriller […]

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