Review #34: Broken Harbor by Tana French

This book was AMAZING.

I love mysteries, but I hate the fact that they’re usually poorly-written or too obvious. I dig the really twisty mysteries, the ones that are scary and confusing and utterly engrossing. I was not expecting this to be one of those, but it turned out to be one of the best mysteries I’ve ever read.

This is actually book #4 of a series, but don’t worry about that–I hadn’t read the first three, and it doesn’t matter. The main characters are all different; they all just happen to work on the same police force. I was a little nervous about ruining the other books for myself, but as far as I can tell, it doesn’t make much of a difference what order you read them in.

Broken Harbor‘s protagonist is Mick “Scorcher” Kennedy, a detective in the homicide unit of Dublin’s police force. He’s arrogant, but rightfully so–he has an extremely high success rate, and prides himself on his ability to solve murders without letting his emotions get in the way. Along with his new partner, Richie, a rookie cop, he’s assigned to a case in the beach-side housing development of Brianstown, in which a man, his wife, and their two children were brutally attacked. Initially, the family seems picture-perfect, but Kennedy soon begins to discover things that indicate that all was not well, including dozens of holes in their walls, video-monitor baby cameras placed around the house. Kennedy must confront the most difficult case of his career while also dealing with his pain and emotions involving Brianstown–the town where his family used to vacation, back when it was known as Broken Harbor, and where tragedy struck when he was a young boy.

I just can’t express enough how fantastic this book is. I was guessing right up until the very end, which almost never happens–I can usually call a mystery about halfway through. French is masterful, creating a story that never feels implausible, even as it ramps up the creepiness and chaotic confusion. I was absolutely glued to the page, and literally could not put it down. I was sneaking reading breaks in at work because I just had to find out what happened. This book was like crack, and I loved every minute of it.

It’s genuinely scary–this was problematic, because I read much of it when I was babysitting and got super creeped out and paranoid–and SO well-written. This was literary genre fiction, something that you don’t find too often, and that I appreciated so much. It felt great to read a mystery without groaning at the cheesy dialogue or cringing at the author’s terrible writing. French is a brilliant author who just happens to write mysteries, and there should be more authors like her.

Go read this, now. It’s new, so the wait at the library might be long, but it’s definitely worth buying (I’m weird about buying books unless I’m pretty sure I’ll love them, so I didn’t buy this, but I should have).

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to track down French’s other books and go on a reading binge.

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