Novel: Broken Harbor by Tana French

Tana French’s fourth Dublin Murder Squad novel, Broken Harbor (2012), is perhaps the weakest of the series so far, but it’s still pretty damn great, another absorbing, detailed, thematically rich crime puzzler. This one takes us to the peculiar Irish suburb of Broken Harbor, recently rebranded as Brianstown, a chintzy, half-finished development that has devolved into a monument for failed real-estate ambition. It’s in this sad, suburban ghost town that Mick “Scorcher” Kennedy—Frank Mackey’s buttoned-down rival in Faithful Place—catches a fateful and tragic case. With a green rookie by his side, Kennedy investigates a bloodbath surrounding the Spain family: a husband and two children murdered, a wife at death’s door, the house a shambles. As the investigation proceeds, Kennedy gradually discovers the harsh truths underlying the disintegration of a family that should have had it all, and in the process confronts his own personal demons.

Like the earlier volumes in the series, Broken Harbor benefits from an immersive, convincing first-person voice. Unlike previous protagonists, however, Kennedy is a by-the-book control freak. His methods and systems—for work, for life—inform every passage, and while this makes for an occasionally long-winded narrative, in time the reader’s psychological insight into Kennedy grows, and the story starts rolling at a faster clip. Meanwhile, an intriguing mystery surrounds the family, whose domestic bliss implodes under the financial pressures of the post-2008 crash. French does strong work building out the mystery and guiding the reader to each new revelation, laying out questions and answers in the usual, addictive rhythms. In many ways, it’s a less surprising book than the earlier volumes, perhaps because French is revisiting much of the dark police procedural territory that informed her earlier books. But the novel’s powerful themes are deftly executed, and overall it slots in nicely with her uniquely compelling oeuvre.

Scroll to Top