My first encounter with Tana French was some time ago when we were looking for novels that would introduce us to Dublin prior to our traveling there. Her The Likeness, despite its high quality, offered little of Dublin atmosphere. Certainly no Joycean walk around the city. However, I decided French offered enough literary acumen to deserve another visit. Thus, Broken Harbor.
Murder detective Mick “Scorcher” Kennedy needs a break. He’s been back-burnered for a while due to a slip-up–not his fault–on a recent case. If he doesn’t catch a solve on a significant incident soon, he’s in danger of spending the rest of his career there. However, his boss, decides it’s time and assigns him to a quadruple murder–a whole family–that has happened in a housing development built on the shores of the place where his family once vacationed. He and his newbie partner, Richie, launch their investigation and dive into physical and psychological perils neither they nor the reader can anticipate.
French has a reputation for psychological insights and thrills, and she deserves it. Her writing is impeccable and often surprising in its insights; her plotting is both intricate and simple (oxymoronic, I know, but there you are.) and her characterizations fascinating. The parallels between Kennedy’s family and the victims’ are uncanny, dissimilar though they might be (that oxymoron again), and give a sad and optimistic (there we go once more) impact to the improbable ending.
Thus, Broken Harbor, gives us the structure and basic setup of a conventional crime novel, yet breaks convention at every turn. Subtle, yet in-your-face. (Yeah. Did it again.)