Book Review: BROKEN HARBOR, by Tana French

A straight-arrow detective looking to bolster his newly-dented reputation takes on a rookie partner and the shocking murder of a young family. Two children and their father are discovered dead in their own home, and the mother’s life hangs by a thread after the brutal attack.

Among all the usual elements of a forensic puzzle, the detectives must make sense of a wiped computer, a collection of video monitors staring down ragged holes in the walls, a menacing spring trap set in the attack, and a series of unreported break-ins in the half-finished, mostly abandoned housing development of Brianstown.

For Detective Mick ‘Scorcher’ Kennedy, Brianstown pulls at his composure because it pulls at his past, a history he keeps filed and cataloged and strictly to himself. Mick wasn’t always this way, and this strip of beach wasn’t always called Brianstown, either. It was Broken Harbor…

So… what to say about Tana French’s, BROKEN HARBOR? I think the first order of business is what to say about Tana French as a writer. What makes her one of the best things going in contemporary suspense/crime procedurals is that I can’t decide which of her four novels is the best of the lot. Each outing of her pen brings something stunning to recommend it as the favorite.

While all four novels stand alone, they can be strung together by the continuation of a non-narrating player from each book turning up as the main character in the next one. In the case of BROKEN HARBOR, I have to recommend, for full effect, that the reader take in FAITHFUL PLACE as a prerequisite. (No hardship there, it’s wonderful.)

Don’t misunderstand me, you don’t need to meet Mick ‘Scorcher’ Kennedy in the third book to understand what’s going on in the fourth − the story carries all and you’ll be riveted to the plot to the last page. It’s only that to completely appreciate the trick Ms. French manages here, you have to see Mick Kennedy in his habitat, first from the observer’s side of the bars. Here’s a hint: you won’t like him. He abrasive, uptight, and a speedbump to what Frank (FAITHFUL PLACE’s protagonist) needs to get done.

But seeing the world through Mick’s eyes, with Mick’s past roiling behind them, well, let’s just say that everything seems to make a little more heartbreaking sense.

This is not a light book, but the weight is distributed evenly – and beautifully. Read it for the story. Read it for the words. Read it for the insights. BROKEN HARBOR, like every one of her others, is my favorite Tana French novel.


Author: jamiemason

Wrote THE HIDDEN THINGS, MONDAY'S LIE, and also THREE GRAVES FULL (Simon & Schuster's Gallery Books.) Might write something else if I'm not careful.

4 thoughts on “Book Review: BROKEN HARBOR, by Tana French”

  1. Just saw this review – I’d been wondering when her new book would come out, and I can’t wait! Thanks for filling us/me in.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: