If Tana French could write and publish a new book every month, all would be right with the world. Two years seems like a terribly long wait, but it’s worth every second. Those of us who still cannot get FAITHFUL PLACE out of our heads will find our patience more than amply rewarded.
BROKEN HARBOR marks the return of Mick “Scorcher” Kennedy of the Dublin Murder Squad. Kennedy, who played a supporting role in the previous novel, takes the lead in this one. Exhibiting a grim, rigid and, yes, extremely competent façade that serves as a deep gloss over a thousand ancient cuts, Kennedy is in charge of a gruesome and harrowing murder investigation while taking Richie Curran, a rookie on the squad, and putting him through his paces.
"As with FAITHFUL PLACE, BROKEN HARBOR undoubtedly will be found on countless best-of lists at the end of the year, even for those who otherwise would never read genre fiction. French’s multitude of fans will feel compelled to read slowly in order to make it last."
The case is certainly a trial by fire, with Kennedy and Curran called out to a new yet all-but-abandoned estate development in Brianstown --- formerly known as Broken Harbor --- to investigate the murder of the members of the Spain family. Pat and Jenny, the father and mother, have been stabbed repeatedly, with Pat dead and Jenny barely clinging to life. Their young children, Emma and Jack, are found smothered to death upstairs in their beds. The house is orderly yet bizarre. Locked from the inside, everything is in its place, yet there are holes intermittently punched into the walls and a plethora of audio and video monitors throughout. And then there is that attic, which is in a state such as to indicate that all is not well.
The area where the estate is located brings forth memories for Kennedy, whose parents used to take the entire family there for vacation when it was known as Broken Harbor. Kennedy needs to compartmentalize his professional and personal lives, given that he must deal with the turmoil created by his emotionally disturbed younger sister. For him, the return to Broken Harbor in a professional capacity conjures up memories that he rather would remain submerged. It becomes worse, though, as he delves deeper into the investigation.
While the Spains, who were high school sweethearts, seemed to have had the perfect marriage, nothing could be further from the truth. Kennedy soon learns that there is much more to these multiple, violent deaths than domestic drama associated with economic misfortune. And even when a confession is obtained somewhat early on in the proceedings, it hardly puts paid to the entire story. No, the revelations --- not only for the Spains, but also for Kennedy --- are just beginning.
As with FAITHFUL PLACE, BROKEN HARBOR undoubtedly will be found on countless best-of lists at the end of the year, even for those who otherwise would never read genre fiction. French’s multitude of fans will feel compelled to read slowly in order to make it last. Good luck with that, as this is a book that demands to be read in one sitting.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on July 27, 2012