If you’ve been following my reading via this blog or GoodReads, you know I’ve been impressed regularly with Tana French’s mysteries. I particularly liked The Likeness but all her books (which also include In The Woods and Faithful Place) have been hits in my book. Broken Harbor was one of the first books I bought on my new Kindle (Christmas gift from Todd), and I just finished it the other night. It’s not my favorite book of hers, but it certainly kept me turning the pages (or tapping the screen, as it were).
I think the biggest disappointment was that I just didn’t care about the protagonist as much as I wanted to. French’s books each feature a different detective on the Dublin Murder Squad; when the protagonist is someone I feel is fully developed and interesting (as was the case with Cassie Maddox in The Likeness) the book is particularly wonderful. When she’s at her best, French’s books are very character driven and emotionally rich—not always easy to accomplish with mysteries, which naturally rely so much on plot. Mike “Scorcher” Kennedy, the heart of Broken Harbor, just never felt as immediate or real to me. I’m growing weary of the plot device of giving the central detective a horribly traumatic childhood incident (which is now the case in three out of four of French’s protagonists), and Kennedy just doesn’t live up to previous characters French as created.
The book is still a good read, and anyone who is (A) a bit more forgiving than I am or (B) reading these out of sequence might not feel the same frustration I did. After all, the book stands up well on its own. I just know how much more emotion French can get out of me with a different protagonist and a little more heart. I’ll still look forward to her next mystery and hope that at some point she brings Cassie Maddox back to the forefront.