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Broken Harbour    by Tana French order for
Broken Harbour
by Tana French
Order:  USA  Can
Hodder & Stoughton, 2012 (2012)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Broken Harbour is the fourth book in Tana French's excellent series about the Dublin murder squad. In the previous one, Faithful Place, readers met brash murder squad veteran Mick 'Scorcher' Kennedy, though his involvement in that case left a blot on his copybook. Now he's center stage in Broken Harbour, partnered with rookie Richie Curran.

The story opens on a dreadful act of violence that leaves Patrick Spain and his two young children dead and his wife Jenny in intensive care (it's 'touch and go' for her). They were found by Jenny's sister Fiona. The obvious conclusion is that (despite the couple being childhood sweethearts and as close as you can get) the husband did it, stressed by the loss of his job and financial problems. But never assume the obvious in a Tana French mystery.

Kennedy's boss O'Kelly assigns the high profile case to him and, as he tells us, it 'should have gone like clockwork'. It doesn't, partly because of Kennedy's distraction over his sister. Once news of the case gets out, Kennedy's concerned about its effect on Dina, who has never been the same since their mother committed suicide in Broken Harbour. Dina regularly threatens self harm. And Kennedy changed on that fateful holiday from a hotheaded youth to the overcontrolling man he is today.

Now the area has been transformed by a development, Brianstown, halted midstream by the recession, leaving a mix of pristine semi-detached pairs with scaffolding and rubble. Most of the units have structural problems. Is that why there are so many holes in the walls of the victims' home? But what's with the baby monitors in every room? And the man-trap in the attic? And who was watching the Spains' every move from a vacant building, and why?

The detectives follow clues (including an Internet chat session) and pull in a suspect. But their disagreement on handling the case leads to compromised evidence that puts Kennedy's career at risk. And though he does find out what really happened to the Spains that fateful night, this straightest of straight arrows ends up crossing a line, an action he never would have anticipated.

As always, Tana French gives readers a unique and extraordinary mystery in Broken Harbour, filled with credible yet flawed individuals that the reader will care about, and with surprises at every turn. This, along with her other novels, is absolutely not to be missed.

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