Tuesday, September 11, 2012

REVIEW: Broken Harbor, by Tana French

Broken Harbor, by Tana French. Published 2012 by Viking. Fiction. Crime Fiction.

So as some of you may have noticed, I've been on a crime fiction kick lately. Crime fiction may or may not be a mystery; sometimes you know the killer from page one (sometimes the book is narrated by the killer), and sometimes you have to wait to find out. Sometimes you never find out; sometimes who did it is beside the point. I accepted a pitch to review Broken Harbor because I've long been intrigued by Tana French, a writer of the who-dun-it school set in one of my favorite places, Ireland, and she had a new book out just when I've been getting into the genre. She's also a pretty mainstream author and I thought it would be fun to break out of the small-press world for a bit and try a best-selling author of wide renown.

In modern-day, post-financial-crash Ireland, Detective Mick "Scorcher" Kennedy is called to investigate a horrible scene. A family of four is found dead or dying in a seaside home. They live in Brianstown,  a housing development in an area that used to be called Broken Harbor. Brianstown promised upscale suburban living for Dublin's rising upper middle class. The development and the family's prospects bloomed and wilted with the now-tanked Irish economy. Dad Pat Spain was an up and comer laid off during the crash; he and his pretty wife Jenny were high school sweethearts, the king and the queen, with a beautiful home and two adorable moppet children until it all went wrong.

French offers the reader a small but tantalizing set of suspects including Jenny's sister, a creepy neighbor kid and a former friend of the couple's turned benign stalker. She spends a lot of time on the details of the investigation including lengthy interviews with suspects and asides to do with Kennedy's mentally ill sister and his family secrets. She also fills the book with a lot of authentic and fun Irish dialogue which I'm sure sounds fabulous on the audio version. My pal Sandy mentioned the audio on her blog You've Gotta Read This and persuaded me to pick this up off the pile. The book's strength is its setting and its use of dialogue to flesh out the various characters, especially the Spains' seedy neighbors.

Overall I liked Broken Harbor. I thought it was a very solid, engaging page-turner and a fun read. It slowed down a little for me after the first half; it's clear from the flap that the person Kennedy thinks is the killer isn't, so after a point I was waiting for him to sort of get on with it and figure it out for real. I'm not sure I'm 100% down with the solution; I get it, but I thought the killer's motive was not entirely convincing. In any case though  I think Broken Harbor is an entertaining mystery that fans of French and suspense will enjoy.


FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from Penguin.


bookspersonally said...

So looking forward to getting to this despite the reservations you mention - finished the second one a few weeks ago (where the detective is the spitting image of the victim) - found it an amazing read even though I found the premise totally and completely implausible, right up through the end. Which I guess says something about the author's ability to tell a story!

bermudaonion said...

I haven't tried French's writing yet, but I have her first book here. I think I'm a little worried that I won't love it as much as everyone else has.

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

Recently read/reviewed this one as well. It was my first book by the author but do plan to go back for 1,2, and 3.

Zibilee said...

I am about 1/3 of the way through her first book, and loving it. I also am listening to it on audio, and the narrator is just perfect. I can't wait to get through to this one! I am glad that it was a good read for you.

caite said...

I liked this book as well, more than you. Since many fans of French say her earlier books were better, I really must read them!

Jenners said...

I am a HUGE HUGE Tana French fan and thought this was great. Each book of hers is so different but they always have this great atmosphere and characterization and depth. The thing for me that was so creepy about this book was the holes in the wall and when they start looking into how they got there. That gave me the willies. She did take an unusual path but I'll follow her anywhere. I encourage you to give her other books a try. Each one features a different detective (you tend to meet the next narrator in the previous books). It is an interesting way to write a series and I'm already sad I don't have any more Tana French books to read.