Tana French’s new novel begins as a police procedural and evolves into a psychological thriller of exceptional complexity and depth ... Broken Harbor provides a fascinating and suspenseful plot, believable characters and writing that is precise, knowing and lyrical. Underlying it all is a formidable intelligence, one that moves relentlessly from a family tragedy to the ugly side of police work to the sorrows of a generation.
...[a] devious, deeply felt psychological chiller ... This may sound like a routine police procedural. But like Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl...Broken Harbor is something more. It’s true that Ms. French takes readers to all the familiar way stations of a murder investigation: the forensics, the autopsies, the serial interrogations and so on. But she has urgent points to make about the social and economic underpinnings of the Spain family murders. And she has irresistibly sly ways of toying with readers’ expectations ... Ms. French’s books all give the same first impression. They start slowly and seem to need tighter editing. But...she patiently lays her groundwork, then moves into full page-turner mode ... That Ms. French is also an actress surely accounts for her skill with minor characters.
...[a] moody and ingenious tale ... French brilliantly evokes the isolation of a Gothic landscape out of the Brontes and transposes it to a luxury suburban development gone bust ... like all superior detective fiction, French's novels are as much social criticism as they are whodunit ... Broken Harbor gets a lot more deliciously complicated and chaotic before any illusion of order is restored. The construction of the houses in that blasted development may be shoddy, but not so French's plot and characters. They're as sound and neatly fitting as a coffin lid.
French builds suspense with subtle expertise and an ear for the quirks of Irish speech...tapping into the setting’s gone-to-seed emptiness and amping up the menace with some exquisitely creepy business involving strange scratching noises in the Spains’ attic ... A few characters...feel too familiar, and a major twist involving Kennedy’s partner stretches plausibility. But French has that procedural pro’s knack for making mundane police work seem fascinating. And she’s 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.
She’s still writing compelling, well-paced murder mysteries, but the mystery-novel/literary-novel blend that read as unique and formula-busting five years ago now simply reads as French’s personal formula ... Following French’s formula, there’s a murder, the grim economic realities of Ireland, and a detective with an intensely personal connection to the case. In Broken Harbor, however, those elements don’t intertwine as organically as in her previous books ... To begin with, French challenged herself with Kennedy, the least likeable of her narrators so far. French is more successful when writing detectives outside the establishment—too young, too independent, too female. Kennedy, by contrast, is the establishment, rigid and unpleasant on purpose. French wanted to examine the kind of man who would turn into a pontificating asshole, and the cost is a book full of pontification and assholery. She gives him an unbalanced younger sister to provide instant humanity, but that character just ups the annoyance factor ... But these drawbacks are only significant by comparison with French’s earlier work. As ever, the mystery is solid. French has a particular gift, which she passes on to her detectives, of piecing together the victims’ world—not just the scene of the crime, but their lives, relationships, habits, and secrets. French’s detectives expand the net to include the victims’ entire life before they tighten it around whatever lit the spark for murder ... While it’s a first-rate mystery, it’s still merely an exemplar of a genre French already transcended.
.,.the climax is surprising and powerful ... Broken Harbor has as its best feature a startling twist and resolution. There's one other thing I can praise about this novel. French has some interesting observations about murder and human behavior ... But here is what I hated, just hated about this book. French has a terrible habit of writing bad dialogue ... Broken Harbor is far, far too long. It could be trimmed by at least 100 pages ... Dialogues are frequently interrupted to provide lazy, obvious bits of narration ... nearly everyone in Broken Harbor is predictable and one-dimensional ... French's novels have an unearned reputation for greatness.
The great thing about a Tana French thriller is that it is as much, if not more, interested in the characters and their psyches as it is in the who done it, and it is the psychological motivations of both the investigators and the investigated that makes the who done it worth reading about ... She probes not only the mindset of the suspects, but that of the investigative team as well. Indeed, it is her adept portrayal of these psychological processes while making sure to keep the reader turning pages with dispatch that has been the hallmark of her fiction from the very beginning.
Each of French’s novels...offers wonderfully complex and fully realized characters. Broken Harbor offers half a dozen ... French’s descriptive powers are both vivid and nuanced, and her deeply creepy ghost estate inspires madness and a subtle kind of gothic horror. French has never been less than very good, but Broken Harbor is a spellbinder.
A mystery that is perfectly in tune with the times, as the ravages of the recession and the reach of the Internet complicate a murder that defies easy explanation within a seemingly loving household ... The Irish author continues to distinguish herself with this fourth novel, marked by psychological acuteness and thematic depth ... The novel rewards the reader’s patience: There are complications, deliberations and a riveting resolution.