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Half Broken Things

3.57  ·  Rating details ·  973 Ratings  ·  208 Reviews
Jean, Michael and Steph are three reluctant loners who are just getting by. Damaged and fearful of life, they cannot survive alone for much longer. A mixture of deceit, good luck and misfortune draws them together to Walden Manor, a secluded and gracious country house that promises sanctuary and freedom from impending destitution. Out of an invented past they shape a beaut ...more
Paperback, 303 pages
Published July 25th 2006 by Delta (first published 2003)
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I was pleasantly surprised to discover the many talents of author Morag Joss. This novel of gothic suspense is absorbing and hard to put down; a perfect book to read during the winter months.
Joss was able to create the perfect atmosphere of suspense that had me turning the pages.

The novel begins with professional house sitter Jean, age 64 years old and an extremely inhibited spinster, as she begins her new job at the beautiful, English, Walden Manor where she will be in residence for 9 months to
May 21, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
May 06, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 18, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 27, 2009 rated it did not like it
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.
Robin Ripley
Jul 31, 2010 rated it really liked it
Well written and complex. You see the train wreck coming and yet...
S.W. Hubbard
Apr 02, 2017 rated it liked it
Although I'm personally a very optimistic person, I'm drawn to dark books. All I have to see are the words "damaged, difficult characters," and I'm hitting the Amazon BUY button. So this book was a natural for me--three people with terrible childhoods and desperate financial need take shelter together in a grand house that the eldest woman is house-sitting. They soon form a happy family there. But of course, real life intervenes and they're driven to do terrible things. Good set-up, right?

Aug 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
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 11, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
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 rated it liked it
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.
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
Jul 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Robert Blumenthal
May 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 30, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 21, 2014 rated it liked it
After reading Among the Missing, I am afraid my expectations were too high. Half Broken Things is the story of lonely, traumatized people whose paths have crossed. The pages are laced with a feeling of inevitable horror, but the pace is slow, and just because characters are lonely, traumatized and for the most part up to no good, doesn't make them interesting. I was able to finish the book out of a mild curiosity about the outcome and an appreciation for the skill of Joss's writing. However, had ...more
Apr 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
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 rated it liked it
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 rated it really liked it
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 rated it it was ok
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 rated it really liked it
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.
Apr 20, 2008 rated it did not like it
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.
May 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
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.
Jul 17, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: criminal-intent
Subtle, melancholy, and gripping without the usual tricks of the genre--a great surprise.
Mar 31, 2010 rated it really liked it
Clever and intriguing.
Jun 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Whoa! This is written incredibly well but starts off slow. It could be called a horror story. No ghouls or ghosts but frightening non the less to be silent witness to three people who's lives are at bottom suddenly find something worth holding on to, each other. The trio creates an alternate reality which soon becomes the norm their very survival depends upon. It transforms them beyond that point but not up as you might expect but deeper into the dark decent of sheer lunacy.

Jean is a house sitt
Holly Housman
Mar 05, 2017 rated it it was ok
Beautiful writing. Just nothing ever happens.
Jul 30, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
What an unpleasant book. I wanted to care about someone, but ugh. The end was easy to see a mile away.
Barbara George
Mar 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Surprises at every page

What a story. You can never figure out what will happen next. The ending is a combination of all you might expect to happen. A gentle form of horror.
Deborah B Ford
Mar 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very good

Very complete, suspenseful. Unexpected twists, thoughtful. Thorough description of events from each character's perspective, all sounds consistent and genuine. Enjoyable read.
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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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