A Dublin Murder Squad Mystery by Tana French
Review: The Dublin Murder Squad's homicide detective Mick "Scorcher" Kennedy has a horrific case on his hands: the father of two young children has been found stabbed to death in his kitchen, the children smothered in their beds, the only surviving victim of the attack, the wife and mother, is barely clinging to life in Broken Harbor, the fourth mystery in this series by Tana French.
Kennedy's investigation is complicated by two other unusual factors. The house itself, a new home in a development that was abandoned when the builder went bankrupt, is spotless inside … with the exception of several gaping holes in the walls and an attic opening covered in mesh, all of which have a separate nanny-cam pointing at them. The attic inexplicably contains a wolf trap. In addition, the police find the doors locked and deadbolted from the inside, the security system on and active. How could someone have entered the house, attacked the family and exited, all without unlocking the doors or setting off the alarm. But someone has to have been there: the murder weapon is missing and, if the coroner's time of death is accurate, the family's home computer had been wiped clean sometime later.
Broken Harbor is a combination police procedural and psychological thriller. And in many ways, it is a character study, centered on Scorcher Kennedy and his interpersonal relationships: with his new rookie partner, with his "nutso" younger sister, and even with the surviving victim of the crime.
As a police procedural, the storyline is handled quite nicely. The strange appearance of the crime scene and everything that is found there baffles everyone involved in the murder investigation. How Kennedy and his team put the pieces of the puzzle together is quite captivating … though does tend to go on a little too long. Fairly early on, for example, Kennedy seems to know what happened and why — about the same time as the reader … if one accepts at face value the evidence as it is presented — but must spend an extraordinary amount of time (pages) trying to build a case.
As a psychological thriller, the book is marginally less successful. There is quite a bit of (probably) intentional ambiguity here, which may appeal to some readers but put off others. The evidence, as it is presented, may not in fact be everything it seems to be. And, without spoiling the plot by indicating what happens as it unfolds, it should be noted that that ambiguity is not resolved. This may mirror real life, but comes across as a loose end here.
Broken Harbor is a solid entry in this series, but one that almost seems as flawed as its characters. As with the author's other books, the narrative is exceptionally descriptive, beautifully written, and really a joy to read. Which makes it all the more frustrating that the story seems to take far too long to cover what is, in effect, a narrow, self-contained investigation spanning a very short period of time with just a handful of characters participating in a plot that one might argue is cleverly crafted but not all that credible.
Acknowledgment: Penguin Group provided a copy of Broken Harbor for this review.
Review Copyright © 2012 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
Viking (Hardcover), July 2010
ISBN-13: 9780670021871; ISBN-10: 0670021873
Location(s) referenced in Broken Harbor: Dublin, Ireland
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Broken Harbor by Tana French — A Dublin Murder Squad Mystery
Publication Date: July 2012
List Price: $27.95