Broken Harbor by Tana French (2012 fiction)
Tana French has garnered superlative praise for her police procedural thrillers. Broken Harbor is one of five, unforgettable and brilliant. The Spain family is introduced and then, dead or alive, expanded and developed. The plot surges tidally, sustained by extraordinarily convincing dialogue between police operatives, family members, nosy neighbors, and significant others such as the post mortem pathologist, computer experts and internet habitués. French lets the conversations limn the plot. Mental illness is presented, not only in the Spains, but also in Chief Detective Kennedy’s family, with his sister Dina’s unpredictable and uncontrollable craziness, his mother’s ancient suicide, and his dad’s heart-breakingly simple Alzheimer’s. Ireland’s economic recession is a pathetic backdrop as the Spain family is slowly eaten alive. The oxymoronic title tells all. A harbor is a haven. Broken, it betrays, abandons. The promised community, Brianstown, is destroyed. The hope implied in its original Irish breacadh, or daybreak, is never delivered. I found Broken Harbor harrowing. The only character achieving a measure of satisfaction is Cooper, the obnoxious pathologist. In the Woods, The Likeness, Faithful Place, and The Secret Place are French’s other four novels.
Reviewed by Martin Waldron