Be warned, this review will likely contain some spoilers.
In some ways, this is the most ambitious Tana French novel yet. There are layers upon layers nested in the plot, in the characters, in the setting and in the descriptions of the tasks and disciplines which accompany a murder investigation.
The plot centers around a multiple murder, set in a place where our protagonist has painful childhood memories which have left deep and lasting wounds on his psyche.
Our lead character and first-person storyteller is Mike "scorcher" Kennedy, a character first encountered in an earlier French novel ("Faithful Place"). At first, the reader will encounter this story as a crime procedural - the veteran, organized, methodical, controlled and very disciplined Kennedy instructs a rookie partner in the "rules" of being a murder detective. In addition to ongoing tutelage from Kennedy, there are detailed descriptions of interviews, post-interview discussions between detectives, crime scene analyses, autopsies, stakeouts and eventually more than one interrogation. Intertwined with all of this, we see a relationship bloom between the detectives - and encounter conflict which threatens the long-term viability of said relationship.
However, as the plot unfolds, it develops that this is about much more than a police procedural. Ultimately, I think this story is about madness. It is a character study, seen from the eyes of the character at the center of it all, of madness, plain and simple. Family members (living and gone), suspects, the main character himself, all of them are confronted by and act according to their neuroses and deep disturbances. Again, from the detectives eyes, we learn of the deterioration and eventual collapse of several main character's behavioral "center" - "centers" which cannot and do not hold.
So what starts as a crime drama and police procedural becomes much more than that - it becomes a character study of many flawed and fascinating players in the drama. As that develops, the setting itself emerges as a major player in the story development, emerging as a powerful, and ultimately evil, presence in the telling.
As always, Tana French excels as a writer. Her descriptive prose in this genre has few peers. Dennis Lehane (IMO) is the master of the genre, but Tana French is in the same league - and close to the top of it.
In addition, the reader (Stephen Hogan) is an excellent voice-actor, interpreting the author's intent and the story flawlessly. An excellent reader can "make" an average story great or a poor reader can "unmake" a good story, even a great one. In this case, we have the treat of a powerful story and a talented voice actor.
That said, I have some criticisms - or more properly, warnings for the listener.
First, this is a brutal and powerful story. You will find a lot of it hard to listen to - it is not an easy experience for the listener, and I have read reviews in this forum of those who found it too depressing. Bear in mind, this is a tragedy and depression, along with psychological insights in the unraveling of the characters, is probably not inconsistent with the author's intent.
Second, some of the descriptive text, whether it be memories of childhood, police interviews, or the introspective thoughts of Detective Kennedy, can be deep in detail and quite expansive - and perhaps to a fault. Others have used the word "tedious" in this forum and I can understand why. While I did find some passages perhaps a bit too layered in detail, that feeling was trumped by my fascination with the character's struggles and my appreciation both for the writer and the narrator's interpretation of her work.
Finally, the main character is not necessarily sympathetic. Our introduction to Kennedy in Faithful Place portrayed him as a largely unsympathetic character with obvious flaws. As the first-person teller of this story, those flaws are all too apparent and you will not always find him to be likable - you will find him, however, to be honest and insightful.
The bottom line is that this book is both an ordeal and an accomplishment. It is rough and also redeeming. It is another example of a great writer and it is a stunning and painful insight into personalities fraying away beyond recognition. I recommend it without reservation, however you have been warned - Broken Harbor is not the happiest of places to visit.
I liked that it kept me on my toes the entire time trying to figure out what was going on.
The little sister and everything about her was memorable. That and the wild animals.
I thought the story was really interesting and it kept me guessing until the end about what was going on. Although what actually happened was shocking and horrible, I was hoping/thinking it would be something deeper and more sinister.
The only negative with this book is the fact that it is the last Tana French available. Please, let there be more. I thoroughly enjoyed each book in this series and really could not pick a favorite.
One of the best, another moody, creepy mystery from Tana French.
It was great to get a more in depth look at “Scorcher” in this story.
When ever he was giving advise to Ritchie.
I don't know...something about gothic horror
Overall, it was a great addition to the Dublin Murder Squad series. Not as much humor as “Faithful Place”, and there were some parts of Scorchers brooding that dragged a little. The creepy mood, with the desolate house by the sea, and the family slowly going mad, was well set.
Say something about yourself!
Nothing really resonated with me about this book. I would have to say the setting is what I loved.
I enjoyed his narration but it was not nearly as good as Tim Gerard Reynolds from A Faithful Place which was my all time favorite book mostly due to his narration.
This was the most depressing book that I have ever spent time with, the reviews were so misleading. This is nothing like the other books, which I found wonderful. I knew the ending in the first chapter. I want my money back.
Very depressing, he whined and preached, which made it worse.
First three books are amazing. This was just awful.
Did not expect to like this when it began, but soon got used to the Irish accents. My only complaint was that, after it went on and revealed more, it proved that there was no one to really identify with--everyone was indeed broken in one way or another. What was revealed about the protagonist made him a less sympathetic character, and less respected.
Definitely an interesting listen, and although dark and at times rambling, a good mystery.
i like to read. i like to listen.
I was really disappointed in this book. I think that it was the weakest of the Dublin Murder Squad series. True it had Tana French's perfect dialogue writing...but everything else was just OK.
The mystery wasn't great.
The main character, Scorcher, was just OK.
The narrator was just ok.