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Half Broken Things

3.55  ·  Rating Details ·  882 Ratings  ·  199 Reviews
A gripping tale of psychological suspense perfect for the readership of Minette Walters and Ruth Rendell, Half Broken Things is a novel that peers into the lives of three dangerously lost people…and the ominous haven they find when they find each other.

Jean is a house sitter at the end of a dreary career. Steph is nine months pregnant and on the run. And Michael is a thief
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published September 27th 2005 by Delacorte Press (first published 2003)
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Mar 19, 2012 Scoozer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: i-own, s-fiction
Half Broken Things is a powerful story about what we tell ourselves as truth. It is an unexpected tale that is beautifully written and compelling. Joss pulled me in with her words, ideas and story. It tells the story of a house sitter who has just been told by her agency that she will no longer be placed because of her age. They are forcing her retirement. This story is a combination of her confession and a third-person account of what happens during her nine months at a country house in Bath, E ...more
May 26, 2010 Carol rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Half Broken Things by Morag Joss was recommended to me recently by a librarian friend. She said it was in her top 50 books of all-time. The conversation had started when I mentioned how much I had liked the movie Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and how true it stayed to the book. She offered that Half Broken Things was another film adaptation that was excellent. She suggested though, that I read the book first. And I am glad I did.

Right off the bat, the book sounded like it would appeal to me. The j
Apr 27, 2010 Nancy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Walden Manor, a large country home, is the setting for Half Broken Things. Jean works for an agency and is about at the end of her working life as she becomes a house sitter for the summer while the owners are away.
At first she is alone and one of the first things that happens is she accidentally breaks a valuable old teapot. In fact, most of the items in the house are valuable and of quality but have chips or tears or cracks in them, which also makes the house almost another entity in the sto
Robin Ripley
Aug 23, 2010 Robin Ripley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well written and complex. You see the train wreck coming and yet...
Faulty Towers

An unlikely exposition eventually grinds into gear and once settled in, the remaining two-thirds of this Murphy's-Law fable are increasingly engrossing.

Morag Joss has read her Rendell, her Highsmith, and also her Poe; what we have here is a tale of grotesques, enlarged & protean creatures that are forced into smaller and smaller corners by their own actions. The alternating senses of pressure and release, panic and calm are the dynamic of the plot. (Unfortunately, the Stephen
Nov 13, 2010 Karyl rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Half Broken Things is a novel of just that -- things and people who are at best half-broken. Jean is an older woman with no family, no friends, who house-sits to escape having to live at the local retirement home. Michael is a petty thief, a man tormented by his debts, but seeing no way to come clear of them. Steph, a young girl, barely out of her teens, is knocked around by the father of her baby, and has no future, no money, nothing other than the baby in her belly.

These three people, so broke
May 23, 2016 Ann rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5, psychological suspense. Winner of a Silver Dagger Award. Written in beautiful, quiet prose. Story begins with Jean, who's had a spirit-crushing childhood and a dull, unappreciated adult life. At 64, she's a house sitter in Bath, England, who has just begun a nine-month assignment in a beautiful, isolated estate; her agency calls to tell her it will be her last gig for them, she must retire because of age. So what to do - she decides to make the most of things! She manages to whip up a 'son' ...more
Dec 16, 2011 Jae rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wow, I have no idea how this book could be described as a "gripping tale of psychological suspense." It wasn't bad, but it certainly wasn't what I was expecting. This confluence of three dead-end lives lived in quiet desperation makes for interesting reading, but I expected a Silver Dagger Award winner to have a bit more grit to it. This novel wanders through dusky shadows wrapped in gauze.
Dec 27, 2009 Debbie rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The cover claims that this is a suspense novel but after reading 270 pages of the 300 page book, something tension-wrought btu not very suspenseful finally happens. I didn't like the characters and I didn't like what they did and found the whole book rather disturbing but not in a thought-provoking manner. As another reviewer put it-it was just creepy.
Aug 13, 2016 Shilpa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed-books
The Scottish author won a Silver Dagger Award by the Crime Writers' Association for this wonderfully dark psychological thriller.

Jean is an elderly house-sitter, just asked to leave her job. But not before she finishes her last assignment of taking care of a secluded country home.

Michael is a petty thief who steals church artifacts to get enough cash to buy tinned soup.

Steph is the abused pregnant girlfriend of a brute, who one day gives in to her impulse and runs away from her boyfriend. She
Aug 05, 2010 Kathrina rated it really liked it
Compulsively readable and character-driven. Others have compared it to The Little Stranger, and I think that's an accurate comparison, as they both develop a spiraling storyline with a plot that gradually develops momentum, ending on oblivion, of course. The book store shelves this in mystery, but I found it at the library in general fiction. It's a hard call, since it contains elements of mystery -- murder, intrigue, small moments of criminal ugliness, but it is also a domestic drama, with thou ...more
Jul 15, 2014 theknitsmith rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I should have given this more than three stars but I'm trying to be a more discerning reader like the members of my book club (which I've been to twice). But the book was built up a sincerely creepy fashion and involved so much bizarre, yet somewhat sympathetic behavior, that I knew the end was going to be really creepy and I was right. That's all I'm going to say. Overall it was very well-written as well. It just moved at a snail's pace.
Aug 01, 2014 Susan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book really creeps up on you. Very suspenseful, as promised. Morag Joss clearly knows her way around a psycho-thriller. Not a genre I normally gravitate to, but the characters in this surprising book are some of the most memorable I've encountered. Just don't read it if you're planning on hiring a house sitter.
Bözsi Claussen
Jan 27, 2012 Bözsi Claussen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although this book by Morag Joss (very well written by the way) doesn't seem, on the surface, to be a "suspense" novel, the suspense does grow, gradually and surely as the book progresses. I liked the idea of the book immensely, and I don't think the end was, in any way, a let down. An excellent writer, Morag Joss will certainly be an author I will try to read more of.
Feb 27, 2008 Anne rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Good suspense book. Kind of disturbing how bizarre the characters can act at moment. I kept turning the pages to see what weird thing they would do next. There is a graphic scene in the middle of the book that can totally be skipped.
Nov 19, 2009 Nancy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Three people heading for a tragedy you can see coming but you can't stop happening. Wonderful writing and very interesting characters. Cover says "A Novel of Suspense" but that's not what I'd call it--it's more of a psychological study.
Oct 27, 2008 Sydnee rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The front cover claimed it was a novel of suspense. After reading it I think it was a novel of anything but suspense! It was creepy but not suspenseful or thrilling.
Jun 18, 2015 Christopher rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lit-fiction
You know where this is all heading as the characters descend deeper into depravity chapter by chapter. 3.5 stars, good enough for 4.
Feb 12, 2011 Daisy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Clever and intriguing.
Jul 17, 2007 Yulia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: criminal-intent
Subtle, melancholy, and gripping without the usual tricks of the genre--a great surprise.
Michael Carter
Dec 17, 2016 Michael Carter rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a brilliant book. I was impressed with the author's courage in writing in both third person and first person narrative. It was never confusing and was at once interesting to get the slightly different perspectives, but I wondered why the device was being used. As the plot developed, the first person description became invaluable in setting the tension; dropping hints of what was to come with the skill of a magician's sleight of hand.
I found the characters believable and almost likeable i
Jun 28, 2008 Fajar rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Nindya Prastiwi
If you’re anything like me, you must have some judgement ( however slight ) of a book you’re going to read. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be interested to read any books at all.

Half Broken Things, I’m ashamed to say, is one of the books that I underestimated. Two days later, after I finished reading it, I was completely humiliated. Not that I mind, though..

You know.. I’ve always been fascinated by writers who can take some dull, bland and tasteless events and painted them with his words to form a vivid
This is the second Morag Joss novel I've read, the first being The Night Following which I adored. This is every bit as good, although quite different. The writing is a little more laid back and the pace is quite gentle. At the outset Jean is a housesitter, living all on her own in other people's houses, putting down no roots and with virtually no human contact. She prefers it that way. Fate brings her to Walden Manor, a beautiful, perfect family home. It also brings Michael and Steph into her l ...more
May 15, 2016 Sharon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2010, read-2016
This is a very odd story, very odd. Well written but odd.

As we meet Jean, a career housesitter, that's what she does. She's currently on a 9 month assignment that appears to be her last. Her services are no longer required by her employer. So there she is in an isolated country house. The house is filled with exquisite and expensive antiques and collectables, at least that's what the inventory she signed tells her. Unfortunately all of those are behind locked doors. Jean lives minimally in a sm
Robert Blumenthal
The cover of this novel describes it as a "book of suspense." I saw it a bit differently. It did have a rather slow buildup that picked up its suspense cred about 3/4 of the way through, but it was more a novel about lonely people desperately looking for love and a family of sorts. The lead character and sometimes narrator is a 60-ish woman who never married or had children who basically lives in a fantasy world of her own making. She is a professional house sitter who is presently house sitting ...more
The word that best sums up this book is probably, "disturbing." An elderly woman who has made a career out of house-sitting is completing her final assignment as her agency has deemed her too old to work any longer. With no family or proper retirement funds, she snaps and takes over "Walden Manor" as if it were her own. She wears the owners' clothes, sleeps in their bed, drinks wine from the cellar, changes the garden around, etc. Finally overcome by years of loneliness, she posts an ad claiming ...more
Jamie VW
The more I think about this novel, the tempo of the story just doesn't fit. The prose is inventive and witty, the characters sympathetic, artful in their unselfconscious imperfection, the inconsistent and clearly untrustworthy narrator is reminiscent of, if not as subtle and intelligent as Nabokov's Hermann in Despair, materialism personified and vilified quite creatively. What fissures all these strengths is the music of the story, a failed concerto, so incredibly slow at the beginning that it ...more
Jan 22, 2011 Annelien rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
Morag Joss writes about forgetting and inventing in this book. She wants to show how people create a new world for themselves and how deeply you can bury yourself in it.

The story is simple and about 3 people. One is an elderly lady named Jean, who housesits for wealthy people but is getting too old to continue the job. She's going to do her last job at a gorgeous mansion, but after that she has nowhere to go, no family or friends and no house. She starts to invent a new life for herself, while l
Jun 09, 2012 Peter rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2012
DNF. This is a book about crazy and stupid people being crazy and stupid. I suppose it's possible some might find this a gripping look inside the mind of a mentally ill person, but the book keeps flipping out of first-person crazy person narration to normal old 3rd person.
This should tell you if you will like this book: here's the first thing that happens. 64-year-old professional housesitter arrives at empty house she's sitting for the next like 9 months, gets call from housesitting agency.
May 25, 2016 Janellyn51 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Right out of the gate, it freaked me out that Jean was the same age as me. I'm not anywhere near as delusional as she, but at the same time, given her background, I can see how easy it would be to just give in to your desire for attachment, love, beauty....and run with it. But can you say she did this with the understanding that sooner, or later she'd have to pay the piper? I enjoyed seeing Jean loosen up and enjoy life. I've always known that a mother has the capacity to totally cave in a kid's ...more
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She is the author of six novels, including the Sara Selkirk series, and the Silver Dagger winning Half Broken Things. She began writing in 1996 after a short story of hers was runner-up in a national competition sponsored by Good Housekeeping magazine. A visit to the Roman Baths with crime writer P.D. James germinated the plot of her first novel, Funeral Music, the first in the Sara Selkirk series ...more
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