Friday Reads Review: Broken Harbor

If you’re anything like me, when you heard there was a new Tana French book coming out you first asked, “WHEN??” and then did a dance of joy.

For months I had the date they’d approve bloggers for review saved in my book organizing documents. I was, if you noticed, a touch excited. Then finally the response came.

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So you know how sometimes gmail combines your messages together when you get 2 from the same sender? Yeah. That happened. And I didn’t notice for a bit.

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Whoops. But I was so excited I had to rub it in. Sorry. I was just overflowing with excitement.

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If I’d had my way I would’ve dumped the kids for the day and read it in one big gulp. As it was, I read it pretty darn fast.

The big question was: does it measure up?

French’s first novel, In the Woods, is one of my top-5 suspense novels of all time. A great procedural that delivers in plot and depth of character. While it has a controversial ending (which I shall not spoil for you), I loved every inch of it. I wanted to roll up in it like a blanket.

Since then she’s continued to put out what are called her Dublin Murder Squad books, each one taking one of the minor characters from a previous book and devoting a whole book to one of their cases. If you haven’t read any of her books before, don’t worry. You can certainly read them in order as they’re all independent books that don’t require any knowledge of the others.

Before the release of Broken Harbor, I ranked the 3 books like so:

  1. In the Woods
  2. Faithful Place
  3. The Likeness

So the big question with book #4 was whether it would measure up. Because #3 ranked The Likeness is a pretty darn good book and still better than most crime novels you’ll read. Is it worthy of the other Dublin Squad books?

I won’t keep you in suspense (I’ll let French do that): it’s awesome. I’d rank Broken Harbor right at #2. And beating Faithful Place is no small feat.

Now that you know it’s worth your time I’ll give you the little blurb on what it’s about.

Image via goodreads

Broken Harbor follows Mick Kennedy, the detective who ran the investigation in Faithful Place and clashed with Frank Mackey. Like Frank, Cassie and Nick before him, Mick encounters a crime that affects him on a deep level. It’s an attack on an entire young family in an out-of-the-way development. Mick is single, has no children, and his life doesn’t resemble the victims, the Spain family, in any way. But where this development now sits, Mick used to come as a child with his own family for their only vacation.

Mick is haunted by his mother’s suicide, walking into the water in Broken Harbor, and is currently plagued by his sister, with her own mental illness and erratic behavior. He’s also a really good cop, perhaps one of the best we’ve seen so far. He’s devoted to his work, he plays by the rules, he understands the give and take of the job. And during the Spain case he finds himself taking on one of his regular duties: training new murder detectives.

The back-and-forth between Kennedy and his rookie partner, Richie Curran, creates a relationship that shows us a lot about both men. While French may be said to have a kind of a formula, this partner-interaction is very different than what we’ve previously seen from her. Mick didn’t come from much, but he’s worked hard to establish himself. Richie still wears a lot of his street-wise upbringing on his shoulder.

They wind up with competing theories of this mysterious case: who would attack this perfect-looking family of pretty mom, handsome dad, beautiful children? Was the family as perfect as they seemed? Is the perpetrator part of the family or someone from outside?

This is also a great procedural, as Mick guides Richie through the routines of an investigation and they talk through strategies on crime scenes and witness questioning.

Mick is a great narrator, able to give you descriptions of the world around him that ring true and open up a perfect visual in your mind. He’s a good reader of people and he doesn’t spend too much of the book getting meditative. The balance works quite well.

And French, as usual, is mesmerizing. If I didn’t have a baby waking me up every two hours all night long, I think I would’ve had the energy to read this one straight into the night until I finished. I think there’s nothing she can’t do at this point. She’s consistently able to bring these well-thought-out mysteries to life without leaving you feeling like you’ve been whipped around or manipulated by the plot. She just rolls out her characters’ lives before you and invites you into their heads with perfect mastery.

I, for one, am hoping very very much that we get a Richie Curran book soon. I think he’d make another great addition to French’s canon.

Thanks to Netgalley and Viking for providing me with an e-galley of Broken Harbor for review. It will be available in bookstores everywhere on July 24.

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