I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
On one of the half-built, half-abandoned "luxury" developments that litter Ireland, Patrick Spain and his two young children are dead. His wife, Jenny, is in intensive care.
At first, Scorcher and his rookie partner, Richie, think it’s going to be an easy solve. But too many small things can’t be explained. The half dozen baby monitors, their cameras pointing at holes smashed in the Spains’ walls. The files erased from the Spains’ computer. The story Jenny told her sister about a shadowy intruder who was slipping past all the locks.
And Broken Harbor holds memories for Scorcher. Seeing the case on the news sends his sister Dina off the rails again, and she’s resurrecting something that Scorcher thought he had tightly under control: what happened to their family one summer at Broken Harbor, back when they were children.
With her signature blend of police procedural and psychological thriller, French’s new novel goes full throttle with a heinous crime, creating her most complicated detective character and her best book yet.
Tana French is such a great writer—her work just grabs me from the first page and pulls me along for the story whether I like it or not. And I found this one really difficult, simply because of the subject matter. Mick “Scorcher” Kennedy is not a sympathetic character, but that isn’t an issue for me—my issue was that I identified with him a bit too strongly at times.
Scorcher believes in playing by the rule book and square dealing—to the nth degree. Not too keen on shades of grey or of making allowances for people’s circumstances. The rules are the rules and he follows them and expects everyone else to as well. And he knows better—he has a mentally ill sister who quite simply can’t follow the rules. He knows this and makes allowances for her, but he can’t extend this kind of consideration to those outside his family circle.
This case, the murder of a family of four out in a half-deserted, mouldering housing development, will test Scorcher to his limits. Can he accept the wisdom offered by his sister Dina? Sometimes there aren’t reasons for things. Sometimes things just are.
Maybe I didn’t like Scorcher, but I felt for him. What family doesn’t have to cope with mental illness in some form? Depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, substance abuse….they are common, there is still stigma associated with them, they are difficult to deal with. I’m an eldest child, oldest surviving member of my family and both of my siblings turn to me when they need someone to talk to. I’ve learned the hard way many of the lessons that Scorcher is confronted with in this novel. It’s hard watching anyone, even a fictional person, go through these experiences. It was the death of my parents in a car accident that triggered my learning—it’s often trauma, isn’t it, that makes us grow.
This book stirred my emotions, stirred up old memories, recalled that old ache from learning the hard way. I’ve learned to forgive the guy who caused the accident, to take more responsibility for my own life, to see more things from other people’s perspectives, indeed to realize that there are as many perspectives on a situation as there are people who observe it.
I started with a four star rating, but I’m bumping it up to five stars because it has moved me so strongly. If you have not yet read a Tana French novel, what the hell is keeping you? Pick one up and get started