In her fourth mystery, Tara French once again picks up a secondary character from her previous book and makes him the protagonist. In this case, it is Scorcher Kennedy, the homicide detective who tormented Frank Mackey in Faithful Place. Kennedy is the lead detective on a horrific case--father Patrick Spain and children Emma and Jack have been killed, mother Jenny severely injured--that just happens to have taken place in a new development (abandoned when half-built) constructed at the beach where his family spent their vacations when he was growing up. And, oh, yes, where his mom committed suicide when he was 15. Kennedy and the rookie partner he is mentoring disagree about the most likely suspect, and their disagreement ends up producing some major screw-ups in their handling of the case. Also weaving her way in and out of the narrative is Kennedy's mentally ill sister Dina.
Obviously, Kennedy has the required number of family secrets for a French character--not to mention the necessary dark side and difficulty sustaining relationships. Perhaps equally obviously, I've about had it with Tana French. I found the Spain family crisis that provides the backdrop for the crime ridiculous (almost as ridiculous as the premise of The Likeness) and am growing weary of the tortured cop characters. While I have admired French's way with words (particularly in In the Woods), I got through Broken Harbor with no pages marked--and there are a lot of pages, 450 to be exact. Frankly, nothing about the mystery nor the psychological aspects of the story merits that many pages.
Favorite passage (I made myself find something near the end):
. . . cause and effect isn't a luxury. Take it away and we're left paralyzed, clinging to some tiny raft lurching wild and random on endless black sea. If my mother could go into the water just because, then so could theirs, any night, any minute; so could they. When we can't see a pattern, we fit pieces together until one takes shape, because we have to.