karen's Reviews > Broken Harbor

Broken Harbor by Tana French
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May 26, 15

it was amazing
bookshelves: distant-lands
Read from July 27 to 30, 2012

I'm the least fanciful guy around, but on nights when I wonder whether there was any point to my day, I think about this: The first thing we ever did, when we started turning into humans, was draw a line across the cave door and say: "wild stays out." What I do is what the first men did. They built walls to keep back the sea. They fought the wolves for the hearth fire..

there is no better quote to encapsulate this book. because wild doesn't always want to stay out, and tana french keeps finding the cracks in civilized lives and gleefully pointing them out, shoving wild through, and seeing what happens.

this is a story about a triple homicide, but it is also a story of blistering loneliness.

we have a housing development gone belly-up halfway through its construction, in the middle of nowhere, half-full of people who thought they were making good on their dreams; owning a house, raising a family, taking advantage of the financial stability they had achieved. and then the economy tanked, the developers pulled out, and the owners had no recourse to law or reimbursement and are trapped on a half-built development where the vacant houses are inhabited by squatters, teenage hooligans run wild, and abandoned bulldozers and plastic-covered windows flap in the breeze. the whole thing reads desolation, isolation, shattered hopes.

stage set.

in one of these houses, a family is attacked: two young children and the father murdered, while the mother remains in a coma, fighting for her life.

enter scorcher kennedy, a detective who is himself a paradigm of studied loneliness. his youngest sister has some sort of amalgamation of schizophrenia with synesthesia-elements, his wife has moved on, and he has no close friends. all his has is his job. and he is very very good at his job. scorcher represents that last of the good detectives - he is unwavering to his own code of ethics, and a very clinical detective who can handle watching the postmortems of young children without flinching, does not mind a little verbal bullying of witnesses, all in the game, and silently disdains the shortcut actions of other detectives, proud of his spotlessness in his own set of personal ethics.

enter the wild.

Here's what I'm trying to tell you; this case should have gone like clockwork. It should have ended up in the textbooks as a shining example of how to get everything right. By every rule in the book, this should have been the dream case.

hubris is adorable, right?

with tana french, it is never as interesting to find out who did it as much as why and how. and every reveal is so skilfully written, you will feel a little glint in your brain as the clues stack up: (view spoiler)

when those things are revealed, or when the import of them is revealed, each time, i got a little chill, and even as i was reading, thinking i knew who did it, and then second-guessing myself only to third-guess myself and go back to my original suspicion, then french would sidetrack me with these distractions, "wait, there are headless squirrel skeletons lined up in the attic???" WHAT??

and the slow unearthing of the lives of the victims, the life of scorcher, the relationship between himself and his rookie partner (view spoiler)

and when it came down the the ending, and all the characters were worse off then when they began, i just had to applaud, slowly and sadly. i felt horribly alone. i felt as though i had endured something more than just the reading of a book. all of these characters left their mark on me, and because of the nature of this "series," i know i will never see them again, and the next book will just be about some tangential character, to whom i will probably become very emotionally attached and then abandoned.again.

from anyone else, this would be a five-star book, but i loved faithful place so much, i really had to leave some sort of distance between it and this one. but that is just my own personal code of rating ethics, and if hubris comes for me, i can handle it.

famous last words.

oh, and p.s. -if this doesn't scare you now, it will:


trust me.
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Reading Progress

07/29/2012 page 286
64.0% "i am absolutely thrilled that i have no idea where this is going."
07/29/2012 page 398
88.0% "fifty-two pages left to go. will there be one more big twist??"

Comments (showing 1-50 of 77) (77 new)

Mary I hope this is as good as her others- !

karen god it is so freaking good so far. i am forcing myself to pace myself because i do not want to finish it in one day. i am in no way close to finishing it. i have only read for about an hour.

Mary Great to hear- she writes mystery with a certain flair that doesn't feel contrived. I had gotten away from much in mystery until her and Gillian Flynn.

karen i know. i barely read any mystery novels, so it is not that much of a statement for me to say OMG TANA FRENCH IS MY FAVORITE MYSTERY WRITER but there it is

Mary Haha- agreed. Melinda Bauer has 'Blacklands' (set in UK)- its the only one of hers I've read but it was a psychological mystery and very very doomy and gloomy- worth the read.

Moira Russell It was really, really good. Shattering, kind of.

karen so many things are happening right now!!!! ahhhhhhhhhhhh

Mary Great review Karen!

message 9: by Blythe (new) - added it

Blythe I'm reading this right now, but put it aside because I wasn't entirely in the mood for a murder mystery. Now I'm much more tempted to get back to reading it. Great review, Karen!

karen i think what sets her apart is that she has the murder mystery, yeah, and that is the ostensible impetus for the story, but she goes so far and beyond that with the social commentary and the amount of care she writes character background and psychological depth - they are real people to her, not just "detective" and "criminal." there is so much overlap, and she really transcends the genre. or maybe they are all like this and i just have just not read enough mysteries past my 12-year-old self's obsession with agatha christie.


Melissa I couldn't see the image at the end of your review until I clicked through . . . I was almost hoping that it was going to be a baby monitor, since I didn't find those scary before I read this but I do now!

Sheila Absolutely shattering novel. Great review!

message 13: by Greg (new)

Greg The beginning of this sounds like the set up for a J.G. Ballard novel of middle class violence and decadence.

karen well, the last two of her books have been like that. and excellent. i have never loved a city i have never visited as much as i love dublin, through her (and other) books.

Shana Fantastic review. You articulated everything I was feeling about this book. I loved Faithful Place too.

karen thank you! she makes me crazy with how good she is.

Cynthia This review perfectly sums up how the book made me FEEL. Although, I like Frank Mackey more than Scorcher...but I liked this book more somehow. Maybe I just relate to Scorcher more.

karen you are very noble!

Sandi I'm halfway through this right now. Tana French is an amazing writer. The mystery is just an excuse to tell a powerful story. I agree that Faithful Place was so freaking amazing that this one will have a hard time even coming close.

I really like that she always uses a minor character from a previous novel to be the protagonist of her current novel. Who do you think will be the star of the next one? My vote is for Larry.

karen not quigley, please!

karen yayyy!

Cynthia Next up is Frank Mackey's partner from Faithful Place, I forget his name.

karen oh my god she is already writing it! hooray!

Kelly Great review! So happy to see she's writing the next one.

Jennifer I'm so glad it's Stephen Moran! I had thought he's make a good central character.

Elizabeth woohoo! i wanted it to be stephen too! and i was praying it wasn't quigley, ugh. he's a nice little thread from book to book, though.

Sandi As despicable as he is, Quigley might make a really interesting narrator. I like that French has been taking the less likable characters and showing what makes them the way they are.

Carrie Cloud Great review! Can you answer a nagging question I've had since finishing - there was a bird with it's head off that the police found in the garden - did they address what this was, since we know the "animal" didn't do it?

karen (view spoiler)

Moira Russell Yeah, I agree with karen - it's just never explained, and it's not going to be.

Mitch White Karen, I just started the book two days ago and just read that quote tonite. As with most of this book so far, that quote really chilled me~

karen yes!! she has a really unnerving quality that is powerful. eeee!! enjoy!

Leslie Can't wait to get started on this -- I, too, loved Faithful Place, but each of her books has been better than the last, so I am not worried about being disappointed. My aunt is just starting In the Woods and I feel sure she will love them too!

Mitch White Karen, I have been pulled away from this book a couple of times unfortunately. But i am back to it now. I have been very curious because of your comment about the smiley faces and anxious to get there and see what I thought. Just encountered them. Now I am even more excited. Thanks for that!

karen hahahah awesome!! CHILLS!!!

Janet great review! I agree about richie...

Connie Absolutely great review, guess I can see your reasoning with the rating also. I listened to it and the narrator was great and even now I can still hear the sadness, loneliness and regret in "scorcher Kennedy's" mind. But will probably rate it 5 stars myself.

karen oooh, i bet this is great on audio! i should really check out some audio books once in a while...

Connie karen wrote: "oooh, i bet this is great on audio! i should really check out some audio books once in a while..." I love them when I am sewing or driving. Audible has an app for the iphone and it is great to stick your phone in your pocket and you can even clean if you can't think of a hundred other things to do instead.

Connie karen wrote: "i know. i barely read any mystery novels, so it is not that much of a statement for me to say OMG TANA FRENCH IS MY FAVORITE MYSTERY WRITER but there it is" You need to explore Susan Hill and the Simon Serrailler series. She is an excellent writer. If you want to be scared read "The Small Hand" by her also.

CallMeMomes " i felt horribly alone. i felt as though i had endured something more than just the reading of a book." ...
That is exactly how I felt. I thought perhaps it was because I was reading it by flashlight during the hurricane, but no, I think it's actually just due to the power of her writing. Iam so glad I happened to read a glowing review of Faithful Place, or I might not have ever found her.

message 44: by Jane (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jane The only dangerous thing about Tana French is once you pick up her books you can't put them down...like call in sick to work cancel all appts can't put it down - love her!!

message 45: by Joan (new) - rated it 4 stars

Joan Love the p.s. and the rolling smiley face! very clever!

Linda Wake up in the middle of the night to get to the next chapter!

Joanie After reading Faithful Place I wanted the next book to be about Stephen-now I want one about Richie! Couldn't agree more about the cruelty there, she killed me a little bit with that!

Laura Karen i finally could not keep myself from reading this book. Thank you for your review, i identified with it greatly, and yes shudder at the rolling smiley. Here is my commentary on it, not quite a review since there are no quotes, but i will share nonetheless.


karen that's a great review!

message 50: by Sarah (new) - added it

Sarah karen wrote: "i think what sets her apart is that she has the murder mystery, yeah, and that is the ostensible impetus for the story, but she goes so far and beyond that with the social commentary and the amount..."

That is precisely how I feel about Dennis Lehane. Mystic River was brilliant.

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