Broken Harbor by Tana French

18243050Fiction – print. Penguin Books, 2013. Originally published 2012. 450 pgs. Purchased.

First introduced in Faithful Place, Mick “Scorcher” Kennedy returns as the main detective in the fourth novel in French’s Dublin Murder Squad series. Known for his high closure rate, Scorcher is his supervisor’s go-to guy for training new murder detectives and for cases that are sure to attract attention from the news media.

Hence why Scorcher ends up serving as the primary investigator into the death of Patrick Spain and the smothering deaths of his two young children, Emma and Jack. The only survivor of the knife attack is Spain’s wife, Jenny, who is currently in intensive care.

Given his experience investigating murders in domestic settings, Scorcher is convinced he knows what happened here: an abusive husband murdered his family and then turned the knife on himself in an act of suicide. Yet, as Scorcher and his rookie partner, Richie, start to examine the scene, it becomes apparently that something else was going on in one of the few occupied homes in the abandoned, half-built estate of Brianstown, formerly Broken Harbor.

Holes smashed into the Spains’ walls were under the surveillance of half a dozen baby monitors. The killer murdered the children and then attacked their parents, taking time to delete the family’s computer history. And Jenny’s sister, who found the family, drove an hour out from Dublin after her sister failed to call her only two hours prior.

As with all of French’s novels, the main character has a troubled past connected to the location of the present-day crime. In Scorcher’s case, Broken Harbor was the site of his family’s annual summer holiday – two weeks where his mother finally seemed happy – until it also became the site of his mother’s suicide.

That last summer in Broken Harbor brought on his youngest sister Dina’s mental illness, at least according to Scorcher and his sister Geri. As Scorcher is attempting to solve this crime and bring his rookie up to snuff, Dina’s troubles start up again.

Her inclusion in the story added color to Scorcher’s character and was intriguing for the first hundred or so pages. But, ultimately, Dina’s troubles dragged down the pace and distracted from the crime, and her final involvement in Scorcher’s investigation provided an unsatisfactory conclusion to their relationship and the novel as a whole.

That said, I fell for every single red herring in French’s novel. I was convinced by Scorcher’s thinking even when I knew the crime couldn’t have possibly been solved because two hundred pages remained unread. As someone who typically guesses the conclusion well before the end, it was refreshing to read a mystery novel where I completely failed in my role as armchair detective.

This is my first book for #20BooksofSummer. I know I purchased this book at a used book sale in Boston yet cannot recall the exact date of purchase. I do know it came into my home prior to September 1, 2018 as that is when I shelved it on GoodReads for the first time while cleaning out my bookshelves in anticipation of my move to Colorado.


  1. Pingback: 20 Books of Summer 2019 | Ardent Reader

  2. While I enjoyed this novel I don’t think it is French’s best. I loved The Likeness because of its academic setting, but in terms of writing I think the third novel, Faithful Place, stands head and shoulders above the rest.


    • The Likeness was my first introduction to her work, and I can’t say I enjoyed it. I agree, though, about Faithful Place. It’s my favorite of the four I’ve read so far, followed closely by In the Woods.


Please feel free to share your thoughts

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: