This is the third Tana French book I've read, and of the three this is the best in my opinion. I didn't read Faithful Place, the novel where this book's main character was introduced, so this was my first time meeting him. In this novel, Tana French has dialed it back a tad on describing the main character's tortured past and frailties, letting his actions and personality tell the bulk of that story, and spends most of her time on the detection, which suits me and I think makes a more balanced novel. Police procedure and forensics are lovingly described.
Broken Harbor is about an entire family that has been murdered, except for one person who is critically injured but alive. Main character Detective Mick "Scorcher" Kennedy has been matched with a rookie for his partner on this big case, and that dynamic is done really nicely. I was genuinely kept guessing about the identity of the killer throughout the whole thing, which is the number one thing I want in a thriller/detective story. The problem I've had with other Tana French novels is feeling unsatisfied at the ending, but not this time. The story maybe wrapped up a little fast but I felt good about it.
My favorite thing about this novel was the description of an Ireland completely gutted by the boom and now the recession. The murder takes place in a spooky development that was supposed to be posh housing, but the recession has left it half-built and half-empty, with its residents trapped in poorly-built homes and underwater on their mortgages. Pretty much every character in this book except the police are out of work or in very low-paying jobs. Children have Americanized names like Jayden. A whole generation grew up spoiled and entitled and now are confused, let down, and on the dole (or that's how it comes across in this novel.) Here in the US, it seems like most American writers are leaving our wrecked economy and mortgage crisis out of their fiction, so it's nice to see Tana French putting Ireland's plight front and center, almost like it's another character.
My least favorite thing about this novel was the main character's sister, Dina, maybe the most unconvincing portrayal of a person with mental illness that I have ever read. To me, she was just a plot device with a name. Mental illness played a big role in the story, but in a very slapdash kind of way. I'm telling myself that's because we're seeing everything through the main character's eyes and blind spots, but the whole thing still seemed kind of weak and insulting. Nonetheless, I would definitely pick up Tana French's next novel. I think she's got a ton of great books in her and it seems like she's only getting better.
I received an ARC of this book from the publisher through a Goodreads giveaway.