Before I get into my thoughts about the book itself, let me just rant for a moment about American publishers who feel the need to drop the "u" from "harbour" in a book written by an Irish author, because apparently they think American readers are too stupid to understand that other countries may have different spellings. Tana French wrote it as Harbour. LEAVE IT AS HARBOUR. Yes, I'm shouting. I hate being treated like I need dumbing-down. Don't even get me started on the American versions of the Harry Potter books.
All righty. So I've been complaining lately about books by first-time authors that I don't feel have had the time to properly develop their talents. I have the opposite problem with Tana French. I loved loved loved In the Woods. I didn't think The Likeness was quite as good, but darn close. Faithful Place was a bit of a disappointment, but I still felt that French is such a strong writer that even a weaker book by her is better than a lot of other books out there.
That brings me to book 4. I logged onto Goodreads to rate this and found myself in a rating quandary. Well, more than one--Goodreads' lack of half-stars is frustrating when you don't think a book quite deserves a 4 but is better than a 3. But the main quandary was this: do I rate this book as just any old book, in which case it's a 4, or do I rate it against Tana French's previous books, in which case I'm looking at maybe a 2.5 (if Goodreads gave that option)?
I liked Broken Harbour better than Faithful Place, and if this was a new-to-me author, I'd be happier. But it's by an author who's done better work. The wonderful thing about In the Woods and The Likeness was the close marriage of "psychological" to "thriller". That's here too, but the marriage is dysfunctional. The psychological backdrop the mystery is set against feels forced, as if French now has herself in the position that she must include that backstory to all her books. The sad thing is that the main story, that of long-time detective Mick "Scorcher" Kennedy heading up a murder investigation while training in newbie detective Richie Curran, was perfectly fine without the distracting sidetrips into Scorcher's past and his mentally unstable sister Dina. Every time she showed up, I groaned with impatience--back to the mystery, please! And that's not a reaction I had with French's first two books.
Also, this book is waaaaaaay too long. That said, I blew through its 450 pages in 3 days, so I guess there was enough momentum to keep me going. But really, this would be a much tighter book with about 75-100 pages edited out.
Overall, I thought it was better than Faithful Place. But here's an author whose first two books were amazing, and I don't know if it's the pressure to keep producing that's making her falter a bit, or if the editors now take a "hands off" approach with her since she's a proven quantity.
But still, in a couple of years when I see that Tana French has a new book coming out, I'll hightail it over to my library's website and put my name on the list.