Reviewed by Marcus Hammond

An enjoyable, well-written mystery should have strong characters. It should also have a mix of suspense, foreshadowing, and distraction. Finding the right balance between these characteristics, while being original, is a daunting task. This task is one that Tana French has excelled at in her fourth Dublin Murder Squad book, Broken Harbor.

French has created intriguing characters that attract the attention of the reader from the very start. The story is narrated by Detective Mick “Scorcher” Kennedy and is centered on the investigation of a triple murder/assault. Scorcher takes the case on with the help of his rookie sidekick, Detective Richie Curran. Together the two detectives try to put the pieces of a complex and psychological case together to bring justice to Jenny Spain, the only survivor of the attack.

Scorcher’s motivations for being a detective play a big role in the story as his family life creeps in to distract and aggravate the tension surrounding the case. For Kennedy, failure is not an option, though his drive may cloud his best judgment. Detective Curran, on the other hand, tries to stabilize the partnership by looking for angles that his veteran partner might not be looking for. Together, the two characters make a great team.

French’s writing style is dense, and this may be the one downfall to the story. For some the intense devotion to detail might make the pacing of the story impossible to get through. It is that attention to detail; however, that makes this mystery stand apart from others. It shows that French has a careful and committed sense of what is actually possible. Her descriptions of crime scenes, victim and criminal psychology, as well as general detective work makes it possible for the reader to not just read the story, but experience it as well.

Broken Harbor isn’t an action-packed, edge of the seat thriller. The character development and powerful, concentrated detail keeps the reader hooked into the clues that might make or break the investigation. While the pacing is (at times, painstakingly) slow, Tana French proves that a mystery does not have to be over the top to be entertaining. She allows the reader to walk alongside the character and experience the search for the unknown for himself or herself.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

After obtaining a Masters in Liberal Arts and Literature Marcus has dedicated most of his time to teaching English Composition for a community college in the Midwest. In his down time, he spends time avidly reading an eclectic selection of books and doing freelance writing whenever he gets the chance. He lives in Kansas with his wife.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Viking Adult. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.