Broken Harbor (Paperback)
Penguin Books, 9780143123309, 480pp.
Publication Date: April 30, 2013
August 2012 Indie Next List
— Susan Taylor, Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza, Albany, NY
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From Tana French, author of The Witch Elm, a New York Times bestselling novel that “proves anew that [Tana French] is one of the most talented crime writers alive” (The Washington Post).
“Required reading for anyone who appreciates tough, unflinching intelligence and ingenious plotting.” —The New York Times
Mick “Scorcherˮ Kennedy is the star of the Dublin Murder Squad. He plays by the books and plays hard, and thatʼs how the biggest case of the year ends up in his hands.
On one of the half-abandoned “luxuryˮ developments that litter Ireland, Patrick Spain and his two young children have been murdered. His wife, Jenny, is in intensive care. At first, Scorcher thinks itʼs going to be an easy solve, but too many small things canʼt be explained: the half-dozen baby monitors pointed at holes smashed in the Spainsʼ walls, the files erased from the familyʼs computer, the story Jenny told her sister about a shadowy intruder slipping past the houseʼs locks. And this neighborhood—once called Broken Harbor—holds memories for Scorcher and his troubled sister, Dina: childhood memories that Scorcher thought he had tightly under control.
About the Author
Praise For Broken Harbor: A Novel…
—Harlan Coben, New York Times bestselling author
“Broken Harbor proves anew that [Tana French] is one of the most talented crime writers alive.”
—The Washington Post
“Ms. French has come to be regarded as one of the most distinct and exciting new voices in crime writing. She constructs her plots in a dreamlike, meandering fashion that seems at odds with genre's fixed narrative conventions...Ms. French undercuts expectations at every turn. The victims begin to look less like victims; the case starts to unravel and the lead detective makes compromises that could ruin him.”
--The Wall Street Journal
“Ms. French creates haunting, damaged characters who have been hit hard by some cataclysm...This may sound like a routine police procedural. But like Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, this summer’s other dagger-sharp display of mind games, Broken Harbor is something more... she has irresistibly sly ways of toying with readers’ expectations”
--Janet Maslin, The New York Times
“So much of the pleasure inherent in reading these novels is in trying to figure out where things are going and being constantly surprised, not to mention thoroughly spooked. I predict Broken Harbor will be on more than one Best of 2012 list—it’s definitely at the top of mine.”
“a tour de force.”
--Laura Miller, Salon.com
“In most crime novels, cood cops and decent people court tragedy by disobeying the rules of society. But the stories French tells reflect our own savage times: the real trouble starts when you play fair and do exactly as you’re told.”
--Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times Book Review
“French's psychologically rich novels are so much more satisfying than your standard issue police procedural...French brilliantly evokes the isolation of a Gothic landscape out of the Brontes and transposes it to a luxury suburban development gone bust. The cause, of course, is Ireland's economic free fall — the Celtic Tiger turned needy cub — and, like all superior detective fiction, French's novels are as much social criticism as they are whodunit.”
–Maureen Corrigan, NPR’s Fresh Air
“French ...[is] drawn not just to the who but also to the why — those bigger mysteries about the human weaknesses that drive somebody to such inhuman brutality. What really gives Broken Harbor its nerve-rattling force is her exploration of events leading up to the murders, rendered just as vividly as the detectives’ scramble to solve them.”
--Entertainment Weekly (A- rating)
“These four novels have instated Ms. French as one of crime fiction’s reigning grand dames — a Celtic tigress... It’s not the fashion in literary fiction these days to address such things as the psychological devastation that a fallout of the middle class can wreak on those who have never known anything else, and Ms. French does it with aplomb — and a headless sparrow and dozens of infrared baby monitors.”
--The Washington Times
“Broken Harbour is a novel, of course, but it's also a headline...it's good to see contemporary literature engaging a crisis that has had such an impact on the lives of so many. This is, in fact, what good literature does. It makes us look at our world and perhaps forces us to see what we have chosen to ignore.”
--Los Angeles Times
Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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.
- Why do you think Scorcher doesn’t want to have children? Try to come up with as many plausible explanations as you can.
- 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?
- Explaining her madness, Dina says, “There is no why.” Why is this statement especially disturbing to her brother, Scorcher?
- How has Scorcher’s childhood shaped the person he is now?
- How have the more youthful experiences of Conor, Pat, and Jenny shaped their characters and destinies?
- 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.