Search This Blog

Monday, September 15, 2014

Broken Harbour by Tana French

Somehow the review of Broken Harbour fell into the "I'll do it soon" pile.  I don't review all of the books I read, sometimes just because I forget, but I don't forget Tana French's novels; they linger, not just in certain details, but in the atmosphere that emerges while reading,

Broken Harbour is one of those with a pervasive atmosphere that leaves the reader uneasy almost from the beginning.  French pulls Mick "Scorcher" Kennedy, a secondary character from Faithful Place, and gives him top billing in Broken Harbor.  

Ever since In the Woods, French has made a habit of including characters that will appear in new works.  Rob and Cassie took pride of place in In the Woods; Cassie stepped out alone in The Likeness (which introduced Frank Mackey);  Frank Mackey leads in  Faithful Place which introduced both Mick "Scorcher" Kennedy and Stephen Moran; Broken Harbour features Mick Kennedy, and The Secret Place features Stephen Moran (with appearances by Holly and Frank Mackey), and I expect her next novel will include Detective Antoinette Conway.

This is a clever way to go deeper into the lead characters while introducing prospective lead characters.  We learn more about each protagonist, but we don't get tired of them, and we are familiar with characters in the new novels.  A series that provides both continuity and discovery....

Broken Harbour  examines the ramifications of the recession and is set in a small housing estate where the homes look good, but have actually been cheaply constructed.  In addition to cheap construction and out-of-the-way location, the builders went bankrupt and most of the houses in the planned project remain unfinished and uninhabited.  When a dreadful murder leaves only the mother of the family alive, Mick Kennedy and his rookie partner are called in.  Was it a murder or was the father responsible?

What is so compelling is the way little things (what is said and unsaid, small decisions that loom large, different ways of seeing the same thing) have huge ramifications when accumulated.  Decisions made by the Spain family and their friends, by Kennedy and his much less experienced partner, situations from the past-- influence each character including the investigating detectives and shape the events in the novel.  The outside factor,  the recession and its effect on the economy, sets everything in motion with disastrous effects. 

A novel without an evil character out to harm anyone, Broken Harbour sees many flawed, but decent characters inadvertently hurtling toward tragic consequences.  

After reading Tana French's latest novel The Secret Place, I'm so glad I went back and read this one.  Now, I am up to date with all of the novels in this series.

When I went to Goodreads to post my review, I saw this one by Nataliya.  It is a terrific review and has excerpts from an interview with Tana French about what prompted the book.  

I read this in  August before the RIP Challenge began, but it would make a great RIP choice.

Psychological Suspense.   2012.  Print length:  426 pages.  


  1. Tana French is really good in building the atmosphere and having unforgettable characters as well. On top of that, her plots suck us in and with all these elements, it's no wonder her books are a winner. I look forward to reading The Secret Place.

  2. Melody - Her characters and plots do suck me in and even if I'm feeling a creeping dread about what is going to happen, I'm enthralled at the same time. :) I think you will like The Secret Place!

  3. I just got The Secret Place for my birthday. :-) I have only read the first book though. I have a lot of good reading ahead of me!

  4. Wendy - I hope you enjoy The Secret Place! I'm not sure "enjoy" is the right word because I always feel such tension in her books. They are, at least for me, riveting.

  5. You are right, the way she has set up her series is very different from others by not focusing on just one main character. Although I do wish she would do another book with Rob and Cassie. I wasn't not a big fan of Frank Mackey. Anyway, this book I really loved. I found it had great suspense and at the same time it was an interesting look at the economic troubles going on in other parts of the world.

  6. Iliana - Faithful Place is my least favorite of the series. I wasn't that fond of Frank, either. I think most of her fans would like more of Rob and Cassie. I would especially like more of Cassie--The Likeness is one of my favorites because Cassie is the protagonist; she is such a flawed, but memorable character.

  7. I don't think I can pick a favorite by this author! I love all of her books. I read this one last year and still am able to picture so many scenes. I'm really looking forward to reading her latest.

  8. I don't think I can pick a favorite either, but Cassie is one of my favorite characters! While I can't choose one single favorite book, the one I enjoyed less than the others was Faithful Place. It would still be a good book in any category, but I didn't develop a great fondness for any of the characters--which I have done in all of the others.