Sunday, January 26, 2014

Broken Harbor by Tana French

Broken Harbor (Dublin Murder Squad Series #4)  Broken Harbor is the fourth novel penned by Tana French.  It is part of her Dublin Murder Squad series, if you can call it a series.  Each of the novels in the series are loosely connected.  The main character in Broken Harbor played a minor role in the previous book, Faithful Place, and the main character in that book played a minor role in the book before that, The Likeness, and so forth.  It is an interesting way to do a series, having a different detective at the center of each book.  Another common thread linking the books together is French's habit of making her detectives revisit some place in their past where they suffered a loss as a young person.  Broken Harbor is no exception.

Detective Mick "Scorcher" Kennedy is the lead detective in this entry in the series.  He and his rookie partner Det. Curran have the daunting task of figuring out who attacked Pat and Jenny Spain and their two children, Emma and Jack, in their home.  The detectives arrest a suspect pretty early on but you just know the case is going to go sideways.  It's just matter of how and when.  I figured out who the culprit was but I was surprised at how the case spun out of control, even though French left plenty little clues.

As much as anything, this is a story about the economic recession and its effects on people.  As with any murder investigation, the detectives delve into the lives of the victims.  They find two people who seemingly did everything right, and still it all went so very wrong.  Pat and Jenny were high school sweethearts.  According to all their friends they were the good ones, the lucky ones, the ones with a plan for how their lives were going to go.  They got married, had a couple of kids, and bought a house.  The house is where things first started to go wrong. 

Eager to get on the "property ladder," as they told their friends, the Spains bought early into a luxury development in Brianstown.  They were promised a beautiful house on a luxury estate with childcare facilities, a beautiful view of the sea, and who knows what else.  Then the recession hit and the developers left town.  The Spains got their house and a view of the sea.  They also got a bunch of empty and half-built houses as neighbors.  But the Spains were not easily discouraged.  They remained optimistic about their future.  Then Pat lost his job.  They told themselves not to worry, that Pat would find a job quickly.  After all they were good people who worked hard, so of course things would work out for them.  Much of Broken Harbor is about Pat and Jenny's struggle to survive as their carefully constructed world falls apart around them.

Det. Kennedy is more or less a typical murder mystery detective - a loaner with issues.  He's divorced and apparently has few friends.  He has two sisters, one of whom has several issues of her own.  His time with his new partner gives him a glimpse of what it might be like to have a true confidant that he could rely on.  Det. Kennedy also has ties to Brianstown.  He and his family used to vacation there when he was kid, back when it was called Broken Harbor.  Broken Harbor holds some of his best and worst childhood memories. 

I would put Broken Harbor into the category of mystery thriller, with an emphasis on the thriller part of the equation.  The mystery is good but the main draw is the psychological mystery.  Some of the best parts here are when French details the different ways Pat and Jenny dealt with stress of watching their savings and dreams drain away.  With Pat it is all about saving his family from some mysterious animal that seems to have found its way into the house's attic.  For Jenny it is all about keeping up appearances.  There's also Det. Kennedy's struggle to deal with his younger sister and his need to categorize things as black and white.  There is no room for gray in his world.

I heard Tana French is working on the next book in the series.  I can't wait.  I've read the three previous books in the series, In the Woods, The Likeness, and Faithful Place.  The ending of the first book annoyed me but aside from that I have loved her books.

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