Tag Archives: Dublin Murder Squad

Broken Harbor by Tana French

7th August 2012

*I received this book from the publisher Viking Books in exchange for an honest review.

The first thing we ever did, when we started turning into humans, was draw a line across the cave door and say: “Wild stays out.” What I do is what the first men did. They built walls to keep back the sea. They fought the wolves for the hearth fire.

Mick “Scorcher” Kennedy likes order. It’s his job, but it’s also his life. The second he walks into the Spain residence, he realizes the safe, ordered existence was violated by something wild, and it makes the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. A development with only a handful of completed houses, Brianstown was left in the middle of construction, unconnected pipes poking up from the ground, skeletal frames fighting the sea air to stand up, construction machinery tipping over on mounds of dirt. Adjacent to the sea, Brianstown used to be Broken Harbor, a vacation spot for Dubliners, and Kennedy has his own bit of history in the forsaken spot. Now it’s the scene of a heinous crime – a family of four attacked in the middle of the night. The children, Emma and Jack, lie peacefully in their beds, covers drawn up over still chests. In the kitchen, Pat Spain lies in his own blood and that of his wife, Jenny, who is unconscious in a hospital bed.

Lights on, alarm set, and doors locked, the Spain residence seems impenetrable, leaving Kennedy and his rookie partner, Richie, to think the worst. Pat Spain was out of work, the family was broke, any man would break under the pressure. But the weapon is gone, and the computer has been wiped. Plus, Jenny has told her sister Fiona about innocuous but unsettling break-ins. Combined with the holes in the walls scattered throughout the otherwise orderly Spain house, Kennedy knows some evil has settled in this house – the only question is, from where?

The second Mick describes the hairs on the back of his neck rising, Broken Harbor distinguishes itself from other crime fiction in its realistic exploration of the psyche. Something is broken in the Spain’s world, and the more Mick and Richie search, the more they glimpse the madness of it all. The holes in the wall, the obsessiveness of them, was disturbing and became more so as the reasons for them were slowly revealed, until I was questioning myself as well as the Spains. Was there an animal in the wall? Or was someone playing tricks on the Spains?

Using the unsettling backdrop of an unsettling economy, Tana French has, with Broken Harbor, penned one of the most interesting and definitely the most solid novel in her Dublin Murder Squad series. Though the original idea of using different bit characters in the previous novel as the focus of the next is unique, the novels after In the Woods were, I thought, mediocre. Kennedy’s story, however, and its focus on obsession and reality is easily the strongest crime fiction novel I’ve read this year. I look forward to the next book in this interesting series.

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