#463 ~ Broken Harbor

Broken Harbor by Tana French

Published by: Viking

Published on: July 24, 2012

Page Count: 464

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

My Reading Format: Review copy sent to me by the publisher for consideration.

Available Formats: Hardcover, eBook, and Audiobook

My Review

A beautiful young family is almost completely wiped out in an all but abandoned housing development in what used to be called Broken Harbor. Patrick Spain and his two young children are dead when the police arrive. Jennifer Spain was hanging on by a thread and was rushed to the hospital. Despite a recent ding in his record, the Dublin Murder squad sends Mick “Scorcher” Kennedy and his trainee Richie out to close the case. Scorcher is confident that he’ll both teach Richie the ropes of a tough murder case and solve the crime in excellent time to repair his reputation. What Scorcher and Richie find is that nothing is as it seems out in Broken Harbor. Scorcher should know. It’s where his family fell apart.

I finished Faithful Place not ten days before beginning Broken Harbor. I so loved Frank’s story that I was prepared not to enjoy Scorcher’s as much. It’s not that I doubted that Tana French could write another book just as good or even better. It’s just that Scorcher’s character in Faithful Place didn’t exactly excite me. He was a hindrance to Frank. While Frank might not be perfect and may skirt a few rules, I was feeling protective of him. Never mind that all the while I was writing in my review of Faithful Place how I took so long to read it because I basically felt the same way about Frank in The Likeness. Perhaps one day I’ll learn not to underestimate the storytelling prowess of Tana French.

From the very first pages I was intrigued both by the murder and by Richie, Scorcher’s assistant. I loved him and watching him grow as a detective made me one happy reader. Scorcher was a good teacher and he took the back seat for a little while. I was merrily reading the book until I was almost caught off guard at what happened next. I was so engrossed in the characters that when a huge mistake was made, I felt betrayed – in a good way if that makes any sense. For a moment I closed the book and shook it in my clenched hands. My husband took that moment to walk into the living room and he got a lecture about the whole situation. He may regret it, but he helped me out. I had to talk what happened through before I continued. From that moment on, I could not tear myself away from the story.

What I’ve come to love the most about Tana French is her beautiful and distinctive writing and her ability to transform characters. She has the most exquisite turns of phrase that make her writing so distinct that I would like to believe I could read a paragraph out of context and know it was hers because I would feel at home. I say this about an author who also writes some of the most intense scenes you will read in modern fiction. It is beautiful writing about twisted people and situations. I simply love it. Then there are the characters. Tana French’s pattern has been to take a secondary character from the previous novel and made him or her the main character in the next. The reader gets an outside view of them before getting into their heads and hearts. This is the first way in which the characters are shifted. I found this especially dramatic for Scorcher. Frank didn’t think highly of him to say the least. In fact, he was the one who coined the nickname “Scorcher.” When I got to know him personally, I could see Frank’s bias for what it was. Then the real change began when he was put to the test in Broken Harbor. It was a painful joy to witness.

Broken Harbor was an intense and satisfying read. I am so thankful that there are authors like Tana French out in this world to enrich the lives of readers. Each of her books has been a treasure. Scorcher may not have the same emotional hooks as Frank Mackey, but his slow burn is just as effective. You feel safe with him in that little house of horror in Broken Harbor because he’s cool and follows procedure. Before you realized what’s happened, you’re already gone and the heartbreak is bittersweet. I loved Broken Harbor and it is my sincere hope that Tana French never stops writing.


  • At 2012.09.04 07:27, bermudaonion(Kathy) said:

    French is another author I need to read – I am so out of the loop!!

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    • At 2012.09.04 21:52, Jennifer said:

      When you start, be prepared to do nothing else. You’ll love them. It’s my personal promise to you.

    • At 2012.09.04 08:57, Jaime said:

      I had the exact same issues with Frank in The Likeness vs. Faithful Place, and have the same hesitation about Broken Harbor. But every review I’ve read about it has been great, so I will be moving it up my to-read list!

      • At 2012.09.04 21:53, Jennifer said:

        Jaime, I think you’ll like Broken Harbor as much as I did. It was wonderful.

      • At 2012.09.04 09:03, Traci said:

        HA! I’ve read all her books, yet didn’t realize she took a secondary char from last novel to feature in the next! Thanks for your sharp eye 🙂

        • At 2012.09.04 21:54, Jennifer said:

          Never fear, Traci. I only caught on to that because I had started reading Tana French just as FAITHFUL PLACE was coming out. It made it very easy to see that connection.

        • At 2012.09.04 10:39, Caite said:

          She is a beautiful writer, isn’t she! I liked this one a great deal.

          • At 2012.09.04 21:55, Jennifer said:

            She certainly is. She’s an author I would go out of my way to simply say “Thank you.” Love her!

          • At 2012.09.04 13:12, Sandy said:

            Girl, now THAT was a frigging GORGEOUS review. Perfect. You verbalized everything I’ve ever thought about French. See this is why I want to bear her children…I feel that passionately about her and her writing. That little twist of character development you get from one book to the next is brilliant. Her chemistry between characters is tangible and electric. Her mysteries are smart and she does not take the easy path in the unraveling of them either. And if we are going to bring up my passion for her work, let’s just talk a little bit about the audio narrators. Can one have a crush on a narrator? They have ALL been spectacular, breathtaking narrators, including this one. My money’s on Tim Gerard Reynolds personally. I’m six discs into this one. I don’t want it to end.

            • At 2012.09.04 21:57, Jennifer said:

              Now Sandy, you make me blush!!! I do think *cough* know that you can have a narrator crush. I’ve not listened to In the Woods or this, so I’ll go with Tim Gerard Reynolds myself. If he would just call me and say, “Sweet fuck all,” I’d die a happy woman. 🙂

            • At 2012.09.05 01:25, jenn aka the picky girl said:

              YEA! I’m so so glad you loved this. Love your review, and it so perfectly expresses how I feel. Her writing is superb. The stories get better and better, and next to In the Woods, this is my new favorite. It was so psychological. It was disturbing and thought provoking.

              Thrilled that you enjoyed it as much as I did.

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              • At 2012.09.12 06:56, Les in NE said:

                Fabulous review! I’ve read all of French’s previous mysteries and loved each and every one for the reasons you stated. She is an amazing writer. I normally would have snatched this one up the day it hit the shelves, but I was in the middle of another must-read-right-now book and now I’m busy with the RIP VII challenge. Sigh. I plan to read Broken Harbor when I fly to TX in a couple of months, since I know I’ll be completely engrossed in the book and not care at all about flights. I’m glad to hear the audio books are also well-done. I may just have to go back and re-read her earlier books on audio.

                BTW, if you love French, you might enjoy Mo Hayder, too. I read Gone (not to be confused with Gone Girl) earlier this year and her writing reminded me of Tana French’s. It’s an excellent thriller!

                • At 2012.09.20 07:00, Fun with Book Recommendations ~ Outlander said:

                  […] books can be great fun. Over the summer, I’ve demanded that people read Gone Girl and Broken Harbor so I can sit back to watch the show as they read. There always seems to be a hot new book out […]

                  • At 2013.07.24 20:33, Rita Fox said:

                    Two books that have cruel twists to them!
                    What do you make of the “noise in the attic” in Broken Harbor. I thought for sure it would be explained before the book ended! I was a bit miffed that it ended and left you wondering.

                  • At 2013.07.24 20:29, Rita Fox said:

                    So, I missed my book club’s discussion of Broken Harbor and then finished it 24 hours later. They did not give it a glowing report. I found the book a bit LONG and I seldom read mysteries, as I can’t WAIT to find out “who done it.” I feel that the ending came and part of the mystery was not revealed…what in the world was in that attic? Kennedy seemed to see something that he dismissed as he went past the videotaping machine on that last visit to get the hair from the daughter’s hairbrush; and he said that the tape would be looked at by Ritchie’s man and NOTHING would be on it….but that did not satisfy my NEED to know. I thought for sure that the suspect Conner was somehow doing that to drive the family out of that loser house. But that was not the case!? I finished reading the book, and as I said, wanting answers.

                    (Required, will not be published)

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