The good life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be- “Broken Harbor (Harbour)” by Tana French

December 27, 2012 at 9:24 pm 3 comments

“Broken Harbor” by Tana French, Published in 2012

Tana French is one of my favorite modern suspense novelists.  Her books (“In the Woods,” “The Likeness” and “Faithful Place”) leave you with that spine-tingling, hair-standing-on-end kind of feeling that is too often missing from suspense novels. And, apart from “The Likeness” which was fun but a bit far-fetched, her writing is excellent.  I really enjoyed “Broken Harbor.” I should state here that small children are killed in this book so it can be extremely hard to read in parts and for that reason this book is not for everyone.

Broken Harbor USDetective Mick Kennedy is assigned the high-profile murder of the Spain family. The two children were found smothered in their beds. The father, Pat, had died on the floor downstairs from multiple stab wounds. His wife, Jenny, was also stabbed and had curled up next to her husband to die.  The police arrive before she dies and she is taken to the hospital in the hopes that the medical staff can keep her alive.

Though the murders are disturbing and troubling what is perhaps even more confusing is the state of the Spain’s house.  It is located in Broken Harbor in what should have been a community of newly built homes.  But most of the homes surrounding the Spain’s house are in different stages of construction and there is clearly no intention to complete them.  Victim to the Irish economy crash of 2008, the construction company and land developers were never able to complete the project and so the Spains live in a partial ghost town of half built homes.  Inside the house itself, some of the walls have holes cut into them in what initially seems like a home repair project.  The Spains have also covered the attic opening with wire netting and rigged it with video monitors so they could apparently be prepared for someone or something coming into the house through the attic. All of this makes the question of what happened to the Spains even more compelling.

After investigating Mick finds out that Pat and Jenny were high school sweethearts. The golden couple. The couple that everyone wanted to be.  And everyone from the outside thought the Spains had everything. But when Pat loses his job a few months before the murders everything begins to crumble for them.  Unable to ask anyone for help – who would believe that the perfect couple needed help – Pat and Jenny find themselves alone and isolated in a crumbling house, in an almost empty neighborhood.

Throughout the investigation Mick is dealing with his own past.  Broken Harbor used to be a family vacation spot where he and his family would spend their summers.  One summer something happened that altered their lives forever leaving Mick broken and guilty and his sister falling even deeper into her mental illness. Between coping with his past and trying to stay focused on the investigation, things begin to unravel for Mick not unlike the Spains’ lives.   And of course while this is happening, in true suspense style, Jenny is recovering from her injuries and begins to remember what happened the night that she lost everything.

French tackles a lot in this book: family loss, mental illness, the economic crash, friendship, the strict black and white way we view life.  But she focuses a great deal on the moments that break us.  The moments that even those of us with the house, the 2.5 children, the great job, those of us who seem infallible experience.   Some of us don’t come through those moments and for those of us who do there is often a great cost. Under the glossy veneer we all struggle and what happens in that struggle is often what changes everything.

Other reviews to check out: 

Entry filed under: December 2012 reads. Tags: , , , , , .

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Top Ten Books Read In 2012 | lasesana  |  December 28, 2012 at 9:40 pm

    […] The good life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be- “Broken Harbor (Harbour)” by … ( […]

  • 2. Nella  |  December 29, 2012 at 3:10 am

    I don’t often read thrillers, but this sounds like a goodie. I’m going to give it a try.

    • 3. Emily C  |  December 29, 2012 at 9:58 pm

      It is really good BUT I enjoyed “In the Woods” by the same author more. Whichever one you read let me know what you think.


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There is some great literature out there, but there is a lot of bad literature as well. We shouldn't all have to read it. These are my recommendations and thoughts about the books I read.


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