My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Broken Harbour, #4 Dublin Murder Squad: The story is told by Michael “Scorcher” Kennedy, whom we first met in Faithful Place as Frank Mackey’s asshole of a colleague. The beauty of the first person POV is transformation of judgment: now that Scorcher is your eyes and ears, he is no longer “just” an asshole. He is a living, breathing man shaped by a past, and you begin to understand him.
He and his rookie partner, Richie Curran, receive a case about an entire family living in Brianstown (formerly Broken Harbour) assaulted in their own home. The father and the two little children are dead; the mother is in critical condition. At first they look at the father, Pat. “You would be amazed at how seldom murder has to break into people’s lives,” Kennedy says. “Ninety nine times out of a hundred, it gets there because they open the door and invite it in.” But of course, nothing is ever that simple.
I would have given Broken Harbour 5 out of 5 stars if not for two things: one, the lyricism of the narration, at times, is at odds with the narrator. In In the Woods, The Likeness, and Faithful Place, Tana French has shown skill in shifting voices. She has been so spot-on that she fades into the background, and her character takes center stage. In Faithful Place, for example, I truly believed I am listening to Frank Mackey and not to a woman named Tana French. In Broken Harbour, there are times when I hear Tana French instead of Scorcher Kennedy.
Two, Richie Curran. Richie, Richie, Richie. Richie, a man in his 20s, belonging to a generation obsessed with social networking, who does not understand that people lie about their life online in order to feel better. So let’s say he’s not interested in social networking. (He may have mentioned this in the novel.) Let’s say he only goes online to check his mail. I mean, he doesn’t even know what a “troll” is (though Scorcher knows). But he’s a detective, a cop – how can he not understand that people lie to other people all the time, everywhere, not just online, to feel better about themselves? It’s not a hard thing to understand, Richie!
But despite these frustrations, I couldn’t stop reading. It’s a page-turner with sharp dialogues and smart twists and turns. Tana French once again explores the same themes of Faithful Place – childhood heartaches, nostalgia, the unique insanity and instabilities of a family, the impossibility of completely escaping a broken place – and she does it well. Once again.
I’m still a fan, and I am already waiting for her next book.