Broken Harbor (Dublin Murder Squad Series 4)
Tana French, 2012
Penguin Grouip USA
The mesmerizing fourth novel of the Dublin murder squad by New York Times bestselling author Tana French
Mick "Scorcher" Kennedy, the brash cop from Tana French’s bestselling Faithful Place, plays by the book and plays hard. That’s what’s made him the Murder squad’s top detective—and that’s what puts the biggest case of the year into his hands.
On one of the half-built, half-abandoned "luxury" developments that litter Ireland, Patrick Spain and his two young children are dead. His wife, Jenny, is in intensive care.
At first, Scorcher and his rookie partner, Richie, think it’s going to be an easy solve. But too many small things can’t be explained. The half dozen baby monitors, their cameras pointing at holes smashed in the Spains’ walls. The files erased from the Spains’ computer. The story Jenny told her sister about a shadowy intruder who was slipping past all the locks.
And Broken Harbor holds memories for Scorcher. Seeing the case on the news sends his sister Dina off the rails again, and she’s resurrecting something that Scorcher thought he had tightly under control: what happened to their family one summer at Broken Harbor, back when they were children.
With her signature blend of police procedural and psychological thriller, French’s new novel goes full throttle with a heinous crime, creating her most complicated detective character and her best book yet. (From the publisher.)
• Where—Vermont, USA
• Education—B.A., Trinity College (Dublin)
• Awards—Edgar Award, Macavity Award, Barry Award
• Currently—lives in Dublin, Ireland
Tana French is an Irish novelist and theatrical actress. Her debut novel In the Woods (2007), a psychological mystery, won the Edgar, Anthony, Macavity, and Barry awards for best first novel. She is a liaison of the Purple Heart Theatre Company and also works in film and voiceover.
French was born in the U.S. to Elena Hvostoff-Lombardi and David French. Her father was an economist working in resource management for the developing world, and the family lived in numerous countries around the globe, including Ireland, Italy, the US, and Malawi.
French attended Trinity College, Dublin, where she was trained in acting. She ultimately settled in Ireland. Since 1990 she has lived in Dublin, which she considers home, although she also retains citizenship in the U.S. and Italy. French is married and has a daughter with her husband.
Dublin Murder Squad series
In the Woods - 2007
The Likeness - 2008
Faithful Place - 2010
Broken Harbor - 2012
The Secret Places - 2014
(Bio adapted from Wikipedia. Retrieved 9/2/2014.)
Tana French's devious, deeply felt psychological chiller…may sound like a routine police procedural. But like Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl…Broken Harbor is something more. It's true that Ms. French takes readers to all the familiar way stations of a murder investigation: the forensics, the autopsies, the serial interrogations and so on. But she has urgent points to make about the social and economic underpinnings of the Spain family murders. And she has irresistibly sly ways of toying with readers' expectations.
Janet Maslin - New York Times
Edgar-winner French’s eloquently slow-burning fourth Dublin murder squad novel shows her at the top of her game. In a half-built luxury development near Dublin, a family of four is attacked and left for dead, with only the mother clinging to life. For Det. Mick “Scorcher” Kennedy, introduced in 2010’s Faithful Place, this is a case that makes—or breaks—a career. With his new rookie partner, Det. Richie Curran, Mick arrives soon after Patrick Spain and his two children, six-year-old Emma and three-year-old Jack, are discovered stabbed to death in their home, while mother Jennifer is taken to the hospital. The house, one of the few completed in the Brianstown development, is a bloody mess, and suspicion immediately falls on Patrick, who recently lost his job. The recession figures prominently, as Brianstown—once known as Broken Harbor—was abandoned by contractors when money dried up. Mick’s own childhood memories of Broken Harbor are marred by tragedy and intertwined with watching over his mentally unstable sister, Dina. As usual, French excels at drawing out complex character dynamics.
French's fourth novel about the Dublin Murder Squad (In the Woods; The Likeness; Faithful Place) opens with a gruesome triple homicide in a seaside town outside of Dublin. Patrick Spain and his two children are dead, while Spain's wife, Jennie, lands in intensive care. A by-the-book officer with a hard-nosed reputation who is saddled with a rookie partner, Mick "Scorcher" Kennedy discovers further complications when he finds suspicious surveillance equipment near the Spains' apartment. But that's not all: Mick and his troubled sister, Dina, have a disturbing history with the town of Broken Harbor—dating back to a horrific childhood experience with their mentally unstable mother. Following a pattern established with French's first and second novels, this is another "chain-linked" novel, featuring a secondary character from the previous book (in this case, Faithful Place) as the protagonist. Furthermore, French uses Ireland's current economic recession as an effective backdrop for the escalating tension and calamity within the Spain family. Verdict: French's deft psychological thriller, focusing on parallel stories of mentally ill mothers and the tragedy of depression, offers a nuanced take on family relationships that will satisfy her fans and readers of psychological thrillers and police procedurals. —Rebecca M. Marrall, Western Washington Univ. Libs., Bellingham
A mystery that is perfectly in tune with the times, as the ravages of the recession and the reach of the Internet complicate a murder that defies easy explanation within a seemingly loving household. The Irish author continues to distinguish herself with this fourth novel, marked by psychological acuteness and thematic depth.... The novel rewards the reader's patience: There are complications, deliberations and a riveting resolution.
1. French’s protagonist, Mick “Scorcher” Kennedy, prides himself on his self–control. Is Scorcher’s self–control as strong as he imagines? In what other ways might Scorcher’s self–image be somewhat incorrect?
2. French writes with considerable affection for Ireland. However, her books often contain more than a hint of lament for the country’s recent decline. What aspects of Ireland in the present day seem to sadden her most?
3. Scorcher believes that post–modern society has begun to turn “feral” and that “everything that stops us being animals is eroding, washing away like sand” (p. 85). Do you agree with Scorcher’s assessment? Explain why or why not. How does Scorcher’s view of society dovetail with his self–image?
4. How do Scorcher’s class prejudices affect his perceptions of the Spain case? Is class bias the only reason he is so desperate to believe in the integrity of Patrick Spain?
5. The relationship between Scorcher and Richie evolves rapidly, beginning as one between an all–wise mentor and his trainee but transforming into a much more contentious one. Discuss this evolution and the ways French uses it to develop the two men’s characters.
6. Why do you think Scorcher doesn’t want to have children? Try to come up with as many plausible explanations as you can.
7. Tana French is a master of creating characters with virtues that are turned into vices by unlucky circumstances. What are some examples of this kind of characterization in Broken Harbor, and how do they act as a commentary on human nature?
8. Explaining her madness, Dina says, “There is no why.” Why is this statement especially disturbing to her brother, Scorcher?
9. How has Scorcher’s childhood shaped the person he is now?
10. How have the more youthful experiences of Conor, Pat, and Jenny shaped their characters and destinies?
11. Tana French manages the emotions of her interrogation scenes with great expertise, creating tremendous tensions and moving toward great crescendos of feeling. Read over one of these scenes and discuss how the emotional force builds, breaks, and subsides.
(Questions issued by publisher.)
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