25 July 2012

Broken Harbor (Tana French)


Broken Harbor is now called Brianstown, but Mike "Scorcher" Kennedy remembers it as it used to be, from childhood holidays camping by the sea with his parents and sisters. Now, it's a ghost town, a planned development abandoned when the recession struck, littered with half-built houses sliding into ruin. In one of the few occupied units, Kennedy and his rookie partner, Richie Curran, report to the scene of a devastating crime: two small children dead in their beds, their parents stabbed on the kitchen floor. Patrick Spain, the recently laid-off father, is dead; his wife and high school sweetheart Jenny is barely alive.

While Pat himself is the obvious prime suspec, family annihilation being an all-too-common scenario when a breadwinner goes broke, disturbing details suggest there's more to the story: the investigating team finds multiple holes in the walls, with the camera halves of video baby monitors trained on the openings. And Jenny's sister tells the detectives that she was terrified by a series of bizarre break-ins, which left all doors locked and strange, tiny things missing: half a packet of ham, some rubber bands. As the case unfolds, Kennedy finds himself juggling his memories of Broken Harbor, the possibility that Richie may be the first partner he wants to stick with, and his mentally ill sister, Dina, whose mind is once again going off the rails.

Honestly, what can I say about this book, besides the premise, that I haven't said already? French is just so good at picking up the thread of a new first-person narrator and diving Marianas-Trench-deep into their psyche, it would be repetitive it weren't such a joy to inhabit these detectives--the kind of joy that is sometimes a burden, because you hurt for them, and the victims, and sometimes even the murderers. She's so good with character that the plot could be an afterthought if she wanted it to be, and these would still be first-rate mysteries. But since they're also (as they say) meticulously plotted? I'm happy as Maru in a big ol' stack o' boxes.

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