In the world of a poet, language reigns supreme. It’s beautiful, biting, soulful writing that elevates a piece from just fine to wow. I could be reading the sports page or a magazine article about how to apply eye shadow — doesn’t matter. If the words don’t shine or sizzle, I’ll put it down.
Don’t get me wrong. I love a good story, too. Especially a murder mystery. There’s nothing like sitting at the beach or beside the pool and being transported. That’s where Tana French comes in. French has written four novels, all set in and around Dublin, each focusing on a different Dublin murder squad detective and a new case.
Here’s where you should imagine yourself out of the blistering Florida sun and into the foggy, rocky coastline of Ireland. Doesn’t it feel great?
In “Broken Harbor,” French’s latest, Mick “Scorcher” Kennedy gets top billing as an upstanding cop with a high solve rate. His latest murder case, set against the backdrop of Ireland’s financial collapse, takes place in a half-built housing estate outside Dublin where a young family of four has been attacked — only the wife survived, albeit she was critically wounded.
This case in particular shakes Kennedy to the core, not only because of its gruesome nature, but because of his own boyhood experiences in the same locale. As the plot unfolds, French underscores Kennedy’s family history, a fraught relationship with his unstable sister and his own changing moral compass.
What seems at first like an easy case becomes stranger and stranger, as Kennedy and his rookie partner, Richie, discover a cadre of video baby monitors hidden throughout the house; holes in the walls; chicken wire covering the attic crawlspace door; a stalker; nosy neighbors; and the victims’ too-perfect histories.
In interrogations with suspects and victims — French deftly uses dialogue to reveal character — we see not only a twisted, eerie story unravel, but an exploration of the dynamics between partners, a cautionary tale about how financial worries breed fear then panic and the complexity of the human mind.
French can write a crime novel/psychological thriller with the best of them, and “Broken Harbor” is no exception. It weaves social commentary, deep characters and gorgeous turns of phrase, such as, “The word hung in the air between us, bright and fluttering as a lit match,” or “The final step into feral is murder” into the twisting plot.
“Broken Harbor” is a smart book — it transports, engages and, most importantly, commands the English language (with an Irish accent) to sing.
“Broken Harbor” is available at Bookstore1, 1359 Main St., Sarasota. Call 365-7900.
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