Broken Harbor by Tana French
Publisher: Viking/July, 2012
Dublin Murder Squad series
Kind thanks to Viking and Netgalley for providing a review copy
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.
After the events in Faithful Place, Dublin Murder Squad detective Mick “Scorcher” Kennedy is ready for another big case, and he catches it in the form of two dead children, their father stabbed to death, and their mother also stabbed and in the hospital clinging to life. When Mick and his partner, the wet behind the ears Richie Curran, arrive at the house, it’s obvious right away that some things just don’t add up. The mother’s sister is hysterical at the scene, claiming she came to check on the family after she couldn’t get her on the phone. The door had to be broken down since two sturdy deadbolts were engaged, suggesting that either the husband or wife was responsible for the deaths. There are ragged holes in the walls of the house, belying the otherwise thoughtful and clean décor. If you’re a fan of Tana French’s, you already know that absolutely nothing in her novels is ever simple, and this case is no exception.
In Faithful Place, I came to mildly dislike Mick, but keep in mind, the viewpoint that he’s obnoxious, egotistical, and brash comes from a detective who he’s had some run ins with in the past, and you most definitely don’t get the full story about Kennedy. In Broken Harbor, told from his point of view, you get the full story, and frankly, while the terms “egotistical” and “brash” may apply, Kennedy is much more complex than these descriptions suggest. When this case is handed to Kennedy, he chooses a rookie partner that shows promise, and they seem to make a great team. Kennedy loves the chance to teach what he knows, and if Richie’s a little rough around the edges, he has a way with talking to witnesses and Kennedy is confident he’ll be a great detective. As Kennedy comes to the realization that this case may be way more than he bargained for, we get insight into his own background and a tragic history that involves Broken Harbor. For Kennedy, work doesn’t stop until the case is solved, and there is no such thing as overtime, but although he doesn’t have a wife and children at home, he does have a mentally unstable younger sister to contend with, and her manipulative ways could throw a huge wrench into what has become a complex and very sensitive case.
As usual, with most of Tana French’s novels, I thought I knew where the case was going in the beginning, but I was dead wrong. What Ms. French does best is family secrets, tragedy, and labyrinthine stories immediately grab you by the neck, and the heart, and don’t let go. The seemingly perfect family in question are not what they seem, and Kennedy must dig through layers of misdirection and seemingly contrary evidence to get to the bottom of what really happened the night the Spain children and their father were killed, and brought Jenny Spain so close to death. Things aren’t always as they seem, and the crumbling oceanfront neighborhood that once offered such promise to one young family is a metaphor for the decay that can linger so close to the surface, and by the time anyone notices, it’s too late. I’m a huge fan of Tana French’s, and she gets better and better with each novel. Wonderfully written, with just the right amount of dread, mystery fans can’t go wrong with this superb series. You’ll want to grab the hankies for this one, though. Highly recommended!