In a ghost estate outside Dublin, Pat and his two kids are dead. His wife Jenny is viciously attacked but survives miraculously. When Scorcher Kennedy visits this relic of Ireland’s one-time real estate dream, which not so long ago was a sleepy, poor hamlet called Broken Harbour, he thinks the case is simple. However, little things about the case baffle him. There are many baby monitors placed in the house and a big hunting trap in the attic. Though the house is immaculate, there are holes in the walls that he cannot explain.
This book was a mix of likes and dislikes for me. To start with, Scorcher Kennedy was not my favourite pick as narrator. In Faithful Place, he came out as a pompous ass and I felt it served him right when Frank Mackey raked up his case and his reputation. However, I really liked him in Broken Harbour. He is a straight, “Do by the book” cop who is intense and highly dedicated to his work. Ok… he is still pompous and preaches a lot but he lives by a very strict code and judges himself as harshly as others. I admired him more for his unforgiving personal decisions at a critical point in the case.
Still smarting from his tattered reputation, Scorcher is picked up for Broken Harbour case. At first, the case seems to be straightforward but nothing in French’s book is, as it seems. Then we learn about Kennedy’s link to Broken Harbour, the place where the murdered family lived and his troubled past and now we are not sure if he is the right man to lead the case.
As usual, French’s prose is nothing but a sheer joy to read. It’s beautiful, no two ways about it. Every page has razor sharp descriptions that made me say “Aha!” In addition, French is master of characters and trust me… this is an understatement. Her books are mysteries not just because of the plot but also due to role played by psychological turmoil of her characters, chiefly the narrator in each case. She brings her characters to life and you can literally see them in front of your eyes while reading her books. Kennedy’s relationship with his new rookie partner Richie Curran plays an important role in Broken Harbour. It was heartening to see the otherwise reticent Kennedy warming to young Curran.
My problem with the book was in the mystery. Normally in French’s books, by the time you reach the dramatic end, knowing the killer’s identity becomes somewhat irrelevant. (At least that is how I have felt about her books). It is more about why the crime happened than who did it. However, in Broken Harbour I could guess the murderer straight off the bat. I also thought that impact of Pat’s growing craziness on Jenny and kids did not come out, as it should have. Plus, the motive for murders was a tad too stretched for me to swallow. I am also less sympathetic to Dina, Kennedy’s barmy sister as she keeps insisting that Broken Harbour case is raking up his brain. Without her, the book may have been around fifty pages shorter and tidier.
As a standalone, Broken Harbour is still an engrossing read and deserves rating of more than four but coming from Tana French, especially when I had desperately waited so long for it, I think Broken Harbour is my least favourite among her books. Not to say, I will still be eagerly awaiting her next book due for release in 2014 (Damn… That’s a whole year from now!)
Thank you for reading. I appreciate your time.
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My other Dublin Murder Squad series reviews –