Broken Harbor (Dublin Murder Squad Series #4) [NOOK Book]

Overview

An addictive thriller from New York Times bestseller and the acclaimed author of In the Woods and Faithful Place

Tana French’s rise can only be called meteoric. Starting with her award-winning debut, French has scored four consecutive New York Times bestsellers and established herself as one of the top names in the genre. Broken Harbor is quintessential French—a damaged hero, an unspeakable crime, and an intricately plotted mystery—nestled in a timely examination of lives ...

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Broken Harbor (Dublin Murder Squad Series #4)

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Overview

An addictive thriller from New York Times bestseller and the acclaimed author of In the Woods and Faithful Place

Tana French’s rise can only be called meteoric. Starting with her award-winning debut, French has scored four consecutive New York Times bestsellers and established herself as one of the top names in the genre. Broken Harbor is quintessential French—a damaged hero, an unspeakable crime, and an intricately plotted mystery—nestled in a timely examination of lives shattered by the global economic downturn.

            Mick “Scorcher” Kennedy always brings in the killer. Always. That’s why he’s landed this high-profile triple homicide. At first, he thinks it’s going to be simple, but the murder scene holds terrifying memories for Scorcher. Memories of something that happened there back when he was a boy.


Tana French's newest novel, The Secret Place, will be published by Viking on September 2nd, 2014.

Winner of the 2012 L.A. Times Book Prize for Mystery/Thriller

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

Mikey "Scorcher" Kennedy doesn't have an ally or even a friend in the whole wide world, but when it comes to solving difficult cases, this driven, no-nonsense detective has no equal. Only his latest case, a ghoulish triple homicide in an Irish seaside community holds the potential to shake his seemingly imperturbable nature. Tana French's fourth Dublin Murder squad novel spices itself suspenseful mystery with resonant atmospherics involving crumbling economic dreams and the burdens of family mental illness. Now in trade paperback and NOOK Book.

The New York Times Book Review
In most crime novels, good cops and decent people court tragedy by disobeying the rules of society. But the stories French tells reflect our own savage times: the real trouble starts when you play fair and do exactly as you're told.
—Marilyn Stasio
The New York Times
Tana French's devious, deeply felt psychological chiller…may sound like a routine police procedural. But like Gillian Flynn's Gone GirlBroken Harbor is something more. It's true that Ms. French takes readers to all the familiar way stations of a murder investigation: the forensics, the autopsies, the serial interrogations and so on. But she has urgent points to make about the social and economic underpinnings of the Spain family murders. And she has irresistibly sly ways of toying with readers' expectations.
—Janet Maslin
The Washington Post
…begins as a police procedural and evolves into a psychological thriller of exceptional complexity and depth…Broken Harbor provides a fascinating and suspenseful plot, believable characters and writing that is precise, knowing and lyrical. Underlying it all is a formidable intelligence, one that moves relentlessly from a family tragedy to the ugly side of police work to the sorrows of a generation…proves anew that [French] is one of the most talented crime writers alive.
—Patrick Anderson
Publishers Weekly
Edgar-winner French’s eloquently slow-burning fourth Dublin murder squad novel shows her at the top of her game. In a half-built luxury development near Dublin, a family of four is attacked and left for dead, with only the mother clinging to life. For Det. Mick “Scorcher” Kennedy, introduced in 2010’s Faithful Place, this is a case that makes—or breaks—a career. With his new rookie partner, Det. Richie Curran, Mick arrives soon after Patrick Spain and his two children, six-year-old Emma and three-year-old Jack, are discovered stabbed to death in their home, while mother Jennifer is taken to the hospital. The house, one of the few completed in the Brianstown development, is a bloody mess, and suspicion immediately falls on Patrick, who recently lost his job. The recession figures prominently, as Brianstown—once known as Broken Harbor—was abandoned by contractors when money dried up. Mick’s own childhood memories of Broken Harbor are marred by tragedy and intertwined with watching over his mentally unstable sister, Dina. As usual, French excels at drawing out complex character dynamics. 5-city author tour. Agent: Darley Anderson, Darley Anderson Literary, TV & Film Agency. (July)
The Washington Post
"One of the most talented crime writers alive."
The Associated Press
“So much of the pleasure inherent in reading these novels is in trying to figure out where things are going and being constantly surprised, not to mention thoroughly spooked. I predict Broken Harbor will be on more than one Best of 2012 lists — it’s definitely at the top of mine.”
The Cleveland Plain Dealer
"Broken Harbor is truly a book for, and of, our broken times. It's literature masquerading as a police procedural."
The Washington Times
“These four novels have instated Ms. French as one of crime fiction’s reigning grand dames — a Celtic tigress . . . It’s not the fashion in literary fiction these days to address such things as the psychological devastation that a fallout of the middle class can wreak on those who have never known anything else, and Ms. French does it with aplomb — and a headless sparrow and dozens of infrared baby monitors."
The Wall Street Journal
“Ms. French has come to be regarded as one of the most distinct and exciting new voices in crime writing. She constructs her plots in a dreamlike, meandering fashion that seems at odds with genre's fixed narrative conventions. Sometimes, it's not even clear whodunit. Her novels have been translated into 31 languages, with 1.5 million copies in print . . . Broken Harbor has the hallmarks of a standard police procedural: a cocky homicide detective with a troubled past who educates his younger partner with pat lessons; a shocking crime that seems to defy explanation; a heart-stopping twist at the end. But Ms. French undercuts expectations at every turn. The victims begin to look less like victims; the case starts to unravel and the lead detective makes compromises that could ruin him.”
New York Daily News
“Both the characters and the crime command attention, page by page.”
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
“French's flair for setting and its influence on characters, as well as her elegant prose, shine in Broken Harbor. The emptiness of Brianstown becomes the modern equivalent of the spooky mansion, complete with things that go bump in the night . . . French expertly shows the importance of connecting with each other, and how fragile those bonds can be.”
NPR's Weekend Edition
"Salon.com’s Laura Miller has this advice for anyone who has not yet read EVERY Tana French novel, 'Just go out and get them right now.'”
People ("Great Summer Reads")

“Part police procedural, part psychological thriller, all fun.”
Booklist
“Each of French’s novels (Faithful Place, 2010) offers wonderfully complex and fully realized characters . . . French has never been less than very good, but Broken Harbor is a spellbinder.”
People
“Part police procedural, part psychological thriller, all fun.”
Janet Maslin
“Ms. French created haunting, damaged characters who have been hit hard by some cataclysm . . . This may sound like a routine police procedural. But like Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, this summer’s other dagger-sharp display of mind games, Broken Harbor is something more.”
Laura Miller
“The fourth book in Tana French’s brilliant, genre-busting series about the (fictitious) Dublin Murder Squad . . . Invoking atmosphere is one of French’s particular gifts, and in this department, Broken Harbor (the name of the town before the developers got hold of it) is a tour de force.”
Entertainment Weekly
“French has that procedural pro's knack for making mundane police work seem fascinating. And she's drawn not just to the who but also to the why — those bigger mysteries about the human weaknesses that drive somebody to such inhuman brutality. What really gives BrokenHarbor its nerve-rattling force is her [French’s] exploration of events leading up to the murders, rendered just as vividly as the detectives' scramble to solve them."
Booklist (starred review)
“Each of French’s novels (Faithful Place, 2010) offers wonderfully complex and fully realized characters . . . French has never been less than very good, but Broken Harbor is a spellbinder.”
People
“Part police procedural, part psychological thriller, all fun.”
From the Publisher
Salon.com’s Laura Miller has this advice for anyone who has not yet read EVERY Tana French novel, “Just go out and get them right now.”
NPR's Weekend Edition

“Part police procedural, part psychological thriller, all fun.”  — People ("Great Summer Reads")

“Every bit as piercingly brilliant as its predecessors . . . Readers can brace themselves for the gritty details of a typical police procedural and then sit back and savor the poetry.” — Chicago Tribune

“Tana French describes Broken Harbor, her latest thriller set in Dublin, as a ‘chain-linked’ book, because a secondary character from an earlier novel becomes ‘the narrator of the next.’ This is the world according to Mick ‘Scorcher’ Kennedy. He has his murder squad's highest solve rate, earning him the lead in a triple family murder near the seaside at Broken Harbor. Scorcher's narration is commanding and compelling, cynical and honest, and it'll keep you riveted to this book. Murder is ‘a unique crime,’ says Scorcher, ‘the only one that makes us ask why’... The novel is a complex psychological procedural, following Scorcher and his rookie partner, Richie, through their investigation, each step punctuated with Scorcher's teachable moments like ‘Nothing can trip you up like compassion.’”
The Minneapolis Star-Tribune

“French’s plotting is gripping and original, but perhaps most impressive is her facility with the psychological implications of murder. There is evil at work in this book, but it’s an evil that can be found within human nature rather than contrived to give the hero something to grapple with. Also on display is a bleak landscape of an Ireland hit particularly hard by the recession.”
The Daily Beast

“French is known for creating detectives that are as complex as the mysteries they solve.”
The Millions.com, “Most Anticipated: The Great Second-Half 2012 Book Preview”

“French’s eloquently slow-burning fourth Dublin murder squad novel shows her at the top of her game . . . As usual, French excels at drawing out complex character dynamics.”

“Each of French’s novels offers wonderfully complex and fully realized characters . . . French has never been less than very good, but Broken Harbor is a spellbinder.”
Booklist (starred review)

“A mystery that is perfectly in tune with the times . . . [French] continues to distinguish herself with this fourth novel, marked by psychological acuteness and thematic depth . . . There are complications, deliberations and a riveting resolution.” — Kirkus (starred review)

“French’s deft psychological thriller, focusing on parallel stories of mentally ill mothers and the tragedy of depression, offers a nuanced take on family relationships that will satisfy her fans and readers of psychological thrillers and police procedurals.”
Library Journal

Library Journal
Each of French’s four Dublin Murder Squad novels features a different narrator, a detective engaged in the most difficult or personal case of his or her career. In this expertly plotted police procedural that examines the human cost of large-scale economic failures, Scorcher Kennedy is tasked with solving the brutal murders of a family, as well as deciphering the odd, creepy circumstances in which they’re found. His efforts are complicated by his personal connection to the area where their half-built luxury development is located and that his emotionally fragile sister is coming apart at the seams. (LJ 5/1/12)—­Stephanie Klose

(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Library Journal
French's fourth novel about the Dublin Murder Squad (In the Woods; The Likeness; Faithful Place) opens with a gruesome triple homicide in a seaside town outside of Dublin. Patrick Spain and his two children are dead, while Spain's wife, Jennie, lands in intensive care. A by-the-book officer with a hard-nosed reputation who is saddled with a rookie partner, Mick "Scorcher" Kennedy discovers further complications when he finds suspicious surveillance equipment near the Spains' apartment. But that's not all: Mick and his troubled sister, Dina, have a disturbing history with the town of Broken Harbor—dating back to a horrific childhood experience with their mentally unstable mother. Following a pattern established with French's first and second novels, this is another "chain-linked" novel, featuring a secondary character from the previous book (in this case, Faithful Place) as the protagonist. Furthermore, French uses Ireland's current economic recession as an effective backdrop for the escalating tension and calamity within the Spain family. VERDICT French's deft psychological thriller, focusing on parallel stories of mentally ill mothers and the tragedy of depression, offers a nuanced take on family relationships that will satisfy her fans and readers of psychological thrillers and police procedurals. [See Prepub Alert, 1/8/12.]—Rebecca M. Marrall, Western Washington Univ. Libs., Bellingham
Kirkus Reviews
A mystery that is perfectly in tune with the times, as the ravages of the recession and the reach of the Internet complicate a murder that defies easy explanation within a seemingly loving household. The Irish author continues to distinguish herself with this fourth novel, marked by psychological acuteness and thematic depth. As has previously been the case, a supporting character from a prior work (Faithful Place, 2010, her third and best) takes center stage, as Mick "Scorcher" Kennedy attempts to penetrate the mystery of what transpired during a night that left a husband and two children dead and a wife barely clinging to life, with injuries that couldn't have been self-inflicted. Or could they? This is the most claustrophobic of French's novels, because the secrets seemingly lie within that household and with those who were either murdered or attacked within it. The setting is an upscale property development at what had once been Broken Harbor, where Kennedy's family had itself suffered a fatal trauma decades earlier. The property development has been left unfinished due to the economic downturn, which had also cost Patrick Spain his job. He and his wife, Jenny, had done their best to keep up appearances, with their marriage seemingly in harmony. Then came the attack that left Patrick and their two children dead and Jenny in intensive care. The investigative net cast by Kennedy and his younger partner encompasses Jenny's sister and some of their longtime friends, but the focus remains on the insular family. Had Patrick gone insane? Had Jenny? Was this a horrific murder-suicide or had someone targeted a family that had no apparent enemies? Says Scorcher, "In every way there is, murder is chaos. Our job is simple, when you get down to it: we stand against that, for order." Yet Scorcher's own sanity, or at least his rigid notions of right and wrong, will fall into question in a novel that turns the conventional notions of criminals and victims topsy-turvy. The novel rewards the reader's patience: There are complications, deliberations and a riveting resolution.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781101583753
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 7/24/2012
  • Series: Dublin Murder Squad Series , #4
  • Sold by: Penguin Group
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 480
  • Sales rank: 7,696
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

Tana French

Tana French grew up in Ireland, Italy, the United States, and Malawi. She is the author of In the Woods (winner of the Edgar, Anthony, Macavity and Barry awards), The Likeness, Faithful PlaceBroken Harbor (winner of the LA Times prize for Best Mystery/Thriller) and The Secret Place. She lives in Dublin with her husband and two children.
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Read an Excerpt

Praise for Broken Harbor and Tana French

About the Author

Title Page

Copyright

Dedication

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Acknowledgments

An Excerpt from THE SECRET PLACE

Let’s get one thing straight: I was the perfect man for this case. You’d be amazed how many of the lads would have run a mile, given the choice—and I had a choice, at least at the start. A couple of them said it to my face: Sooner you than me, man. It didn’t bother me, not for a second. All I felt was sorry for them.

Some of them aren’t wild about the high-profile gigs, the high-stakes ones—too much media crap, they say, and too much fallout if you don’t get a solve. I don’t do that kind of negativity. If you put your energy into thinking about how much the fall would hurt, you’re already halfway down. I focus on the positive, and there’s plenty of positive there: you can pretend you’re above this stuff, but everyone knows the big cases are the ones that bring the big promotions. Give me the headline-grabbers and you can keep your drug-dealer stabbings. If you can’t take the heat, stay in uniform.

Some of the lads can’t handle kids, which would be fair enough except that, forgive me for asking, if you can’t cope with nasty murders then what the hell are you doing on the Murder Squad? I bet Intellectual Property Rights would love to have your sensitive arse onboard. I’ve handled babies, drownings, rape-murders and a shotgun decapitation that left lumps of brain crusted all over the walls, and I sleep just fine, as long as the job gets done. Someone has to do it. If that’s me, then at least it’s getting done right.

Because let’s get another thing clear, while we’re at it: I am bloody good at my job. I still believe that. I’ve been on the Murder Squad for ten years, and for seven of those, ever since I found my feet, I’ve had the highest solve rate in the place. This year I’m down to second, but the top guy got a run of slam dunks, domestics where the suspect practically slapped the cuffs on his own wrists and served himself up on a plate with applesauce. I pulled the tough ones, the nobody-seen-nothing junkie-on-junkie drudgery, and I still scored. If our superintendent had had one doubt, one single doubt, he could have pulled me off the case any time he wanted. He never did.

Here’s what I’m trying to tell you: this case should have gone like clockwork. It should have ended up in the textbooks as a shining example of how to get everything right. By every rule in the book, this should have been the dream case.

* * *

The second it hit the floor, I knew from the sound that it was a big one. All of us did. Your basic murder comes straight to the squad room and goes to whoever’s next in the rota, or, if he’s out, to whoever happens to be around; only the big ones, the sensitive ones that need the right pair of hands, go through the Super so he can pick his man. So when Superintendent O’Kelly stuck his head around the door of the squad room, pointed at me, snapped, “Kennedy, my office,” and vanished, we knew.

I flipped my jacket off the back of my chair and pulled it on. My heartbeat had picked up. It had been a long time, too long, since one of these had come my way. “Don’t go anywhere,” I said to Richie, my partner.

“Oooo,” Quigley called from his desk, mock horrified, shaking a pudgy hand. “Is Scorcher in the shit again? I never thought we’d see the day.”

“Feast your eyes, old son.” I made sure my tie was straight. Quigley was being a little bitch because he was next up in the rota. If he hadn’t been a waste of space, O’Kelly might have let the case go to him.

“What’ve you done?”

“Shagged your sister. I brought my own paper bags.”

The lads snickered, which made Quigley purse up his lips like an old woman. “That’s not funny.”

“Too close to the bone?”

Richie was openmouthed and practically hopping off his chair with curiosity. I flipped my comb out of my pocket and gave it a quick run through my hair. “Am I good?”

“Lick-arse,” Quigley said, through his sulk. I ignored him.

“Yeah,” Richie said. “You’re grand. What . . . ?”

“Don’t go anywhere,” I repeated, and went after O’Kelly.

My second hint: he was up behind his desk, with his hands in his trouser pockets, rolling up and down on the balls of his feet. This case had pumped up his adrenaline enough that he wouldn’t fit in his chair. “You took your time.”

“Sorry, sir.”

He stayed where he was, sucking his teeth and rereading the call sheet on his desk. “How’s the Mullen file coming along?”

I had spent the last few weeks putting together a file for the Director of Public Prosecutions on one of those tricky drug dealer messes, making sure the little bastard didn’t have a single crack to slime through. Some detectives think their job’s done the second the charges are filed, but I take it personally when one of my catches wriggles off the hook, which they seldom do. “Good to go. Give or take.”

“Could someone else finish it up?”

“Not a problem.”

He nodded and kept reading. O’Kelly likes you to ask—it shows you know who’s boss—and since he is in fact my boss, I have no problem rolling over like a good little doggie when it makes things run more smoothly. “Did something come in, sir?”

“Do you know Brianstown?”

“Haven’t heard of it.”

“Neither had I. It’s one of those new places; up the coast, past Balbriggan. Used to be called Broken Bay, something.”

“Broken Harbor,” I said. “Yeah. I know Broken Harbor.”

“It’s Brianstown now. And by tonight the whole country’ll have heard of it.”

I said, “This is a bad one.”

O’Kelly laid one heavy palm on the call sheet, like he was holding it down. He said, “Husband, wife and two kids, stabbed in their own home. The wife’s headed for hospital; it’s touch and go. The rest are dead.”

We left that for a moment, listening to the small tremors it sent through the air. I said, “How did it come in?”

“The wife’s sister. They talk every morning, but today she couldn’t get through. That got her het up enough that she got in her car and headed out to Brianstown. Car’s in the driveway, lights are on in broad daylight, no one’s answering the door, she rings the uniforms. They break the door down and surprise, surprise.”

“Who’s on scene?”

“Just the uniforms. They took one look and figured they were out of their depth, called it straight in.”

“Beautiful,” I said. There are plenty of morons out there who would have spent hours playing detective and churning the whole case to shit, before they admitted defeat and called in the real thing. It looked like we had lucked into a pair with functioning brains.

“I want you on this. Can you take it?”

“I’d be honored.”

“If you can’t drop everything else, tell me now and I’ll put Flaherty on this one. This takes priority.”

Flaherty is the guy with the slam dunks and the top solve rate. I said, “That won’t be necessary, sir. I can take it.”

“Good,” O’Kelly said, but he didn’t hand over the call sheet. He tilted it to the light, inspecting it and rubbing a thumb along his jawline. “Curran,” he said. “Is he able for this?”

Young Richie had been on the squad all of two weeks. A lot of the lads don’t like training in the new boys, so I do it. If you know your job, you have a responsibility to pass the knowledge on. “He will be,” I said.

“I can stick him somewhere else for a while, give you someone who knows what he’s at.”

“If Curran can’t take the heat, we might as well find out now.” I didn’t want someone who knew what he was at. The bonus of newbie wrangling is that it saves you a load of hassle: all of us who’ve been around a while have our own ways of doing things, and too many cooks etcetera. A rookie, if you know how to handle him, slows you down a lot less than another old hand. I couldn’t afford to waste time playing after-you-no-after-you, not on this one.

“You’d be the lead man, either way.”

“Trust me, sir. Curran can handle it.”

“It’s a risk.”

Rookies spend their first year or so on probation. It’s not official, but that doesn’t make it any less serious. If Richie made a mistake straight out of the gate, in a spotlight this bright, he might as well start clearing out his desk. I said, “He’ll do fine. I’ll make sure he does.”

O’Kelly said, “Not just for Curran. How long since you had a big one?”

His eyes were on me, small and sharp. My last high-profile one went wrong. Not my fault—I got played by someone I thought was a friend, dropped in the shit and left there—but still, people remember. I said, “Almost two years.”

“That’s right. Clear this one, and you’re back on track.”

He left the other half unspoken, something dense and heavy on the desk between us. I said, “I’ll clear it.”

O’Kelly nodded. “That’s what I thought. Keep me posted.” He leaned forward, across the desk, and passed me the call sheet.

“Thank you, sir. I won’t let you down.”

“Cooper and the Tech Bureau are on their way.” Cooper is the pathologist. “You’ll need manpower; I’ll have the General Unit send you out a bunch of floaters. Six do you, for now?”

“Six sounds good. If I need more, I’ll call in.”

O’Kelly added, as I was leaving, “And for Jesus’ sake do something about Curran’s gear.”

“I had a word last week.”

“Have another. Was that a bloody hoodie he had on him yesterday?”

“I’ve got him out of runners. One step at a time.”

“If he wants to stay on this case, he’d better manage a few giant steps before you hit the scene. The media’ll be all over this like flies on shite. At least make him keep his coat on, cover up his tracksuit or whatever he’s honored us with today.”

“I’ve got a spare tie in my desk. He’ll be fine.” O’Kelly muttered something sour about a pig in a tuxedo.

On my way back to the squad room I skimmed the call sheet: just what O’Kelly had already told me. The victims were Patrick Spain, his wife, Jennifer, and their kids, Emma and Jack. The sister who had called it in was Fiona Rafferty. Under her name the dispatcher had added, in warning capitals, NB: OFFICER ADVISES CALLER IS HYSTERICAL.

* * *

Richie was up out of his seat, bobbing from foot to foot like he had springs in his knees. “What . . . ?”

“Get your gear. We’re going out.”

“I told you,” Quigley said to Richie.

Richie gave him the wide-eyed innocents. “Did you, yeah? Sorry, man, wasn’t paying attention. Other stuff on my mind, know what I mean?”

“I’m trying to do you a favor here, Curran. You can take it or leave it.” Quigley’s wounded look was still on.

I threw my coat on and started checking my briefcase. “Sounds like a fascinating chat you two were having. Care to share?”

“Nothing,” Richie said promptly. “Shooting the breeze.”

“I was just letting young Richie know,” Quigley told me, self-righteously. “Not a good sign, the Super calling you in on your own. Giving you the info behind our Richie’s back. What does that say about where he stands on the squad? I thought he might want to have a little think about that.”

Quigley loves playing Haze the Newbie, just like he loves leaning on suspects one notch too hard; we’ve all done it, but he gets more out of it than most of us do. Usually, though, he has the brains to leave my boys alone. Richie had pissed him off somehow. I said, “He’s going to have plenty to think about, over the next while. He can’t afford to get distracted by pointless crap. Detective Curran, are we good to go?”

Well,” Quigley said, tucking his chins into each other. “Don’t mind me.”

“I never do, chum.” I slid the tie out of my drawer and into my coat pocket under cover of the desk: no need to give Quigley ammo. “Ready, Detective Curran? Let’s roll.”

“See you ’round,” Quigley said to Richie, not pleasantly, on our way out. Richie blew him a kiss, but I wasn’t supposed to see it, so I didn’t.

It was October, a thick, cold, gray Tuesday morning, sulky and tantrumy as March. I got my favorite silver Beemer out of the car pool—officially it’s first come first served, but in practice no Domestic Violence kid is going to go near a Murder D’s best ride, so the seat stays where I like it and no one throws burger wrappers on the floor. I would have bet I could still navigate to Broken Harbor in my sleep, but this wasn’t the day to find out I was wrong, so I set the GPS. It didn’t know where Broken Harbor was. It wanted to go to Brianstown.

Richie had spent his first two weeks on the squad helping me work up the file on the Mullen case and re-interview the odd witness; this was the first real Murder action he’d seen, and he was practically shooting out of his shoes with excitement. He managed to hold it in till we got moving. Then he burst out with, “Are we on a case?”

“We are.”

“What kind of case?”

“A murder case.” I stopped at a red, pulled out the tie and passed it over. We were in luck: he was wearing a shirt, even if it was a cheapo white thing so thin I could see where his chest hair should have been, and a pair of gray trousers that would have been almost OK if they hadn’t been a full size too big. “Put that on.”

He looked at it like he had never seen one before. “Yeah?”

“Yeah.”

For a moment I thought I was going to have to pull over and do it for him—the last time he had worn one had probably been for his confirmation—but he managed it in the end, give or take. He tilted the sun-visor mirror to check himself out. “Looking sharp, yeah?”

“Better,” I said. O’Kelly had a point: the tie made bugger-all difference. It was a nice one, maroon silk with a subtle stripe in the weave, but some people can wear the good stuff and some just can’t. Richie is five foot nine on his best day, all elbows and skinny legs and narrow shoulders—he looks about fourteen, although his file says he’s thirty-one—and call me prejudiced, but after one glance I could have told you exactly what kind of neighborhood he comes from. It’s all there: that too-short no-color hair, those sharp features, that springy, restless walk like he’s got one eye out for trouble and the other one out for anything unlocked. On him, the tie just looked nicked.

He gave it an experimental rub with one finger. “’S nice. I’ll get it back to you.”

“Hang on to it. And pick up a few of your own, when you get a chance.”

He glanced across at me and for a second I thought he was going to say something, but he stopped himself. “Thanks,” he said, instead.

We had hit the quays and were heading towards the M1. The wind was blasting up the Liffey from the sea, making the pedestrians lean into it heads first. When the traffic jammed up—some wanker in a 4x4 who hadn’t noticed, or cared, that he wouldn’t make it through the intersection—I found my BlackBerry and texted my sister Geraldine. Geri, URGENT favor. Can you go get Dina from work ASAP? If she gives out about losing her hours, tell her I’ll cover the money. Don’t worry, she’s fine as far as I know, but she should stay with you for a couple of days. Will ring you later. Thanks. The Super was right: I had maybe a couple of hours before the media were all over Broken Harbor, and vice versa. Dina is the baby; Geri and I still look out for her. When she heard this story, she needed to be somewhere safe.

Richie ignored the texting, which was good, and watched the GPS instead. He said, “Out of town, yeah?”

“Brianstown. Heard of it?”

He shook his head. “Name like that, it’s got to be one of those new estates.”

“Right. Up the coast. It used to be a village called Broken Harbor, but it sounds like someone’s developed it since.” The wanker in the 4x4 had managed to get out of everyone’s way, and the traffic was moving again. One of the upsides of the recession: now that half the cars are off the roads, those of us who still have somewhere to go can actually get there. “Tell me something. What’s the worst thing you’ve seen on the job?”

Richie shrugged. “I worked traffic for ages, before Motor Vehicles. I saw some pretty bad stuff. Accidents.”

All of them think that. I’m sure I thought it too, once upon a time. “No, old son. You didn’t. That tells me just how innocent you are. It’s no fun seeing a kid with his head split open because some moron took a bend too fast, but it’s nothing compared to seeing a kid with his head split open because some prick deliberately smacked him off a wall till he stopped breathing. So far, you’ve only seen what bad luck can do to people. You’re about to take your first good look at what people can do to each other. Believe me: not the same thing.”

Richie asked, “Is this a kid? That we’re going to?”

“It’s a family. Father, mother and two kids. The wife might make it. The rest are gone.”

His hands had gone motionless on his knees. It was the first time I’d seen him absolutely still. “Ah, sweet Jaysus. What age kids?”

“We don’t know yet.”

“What happened to them?”

“It looks like they were stabbed. In their home, probably sometime last night.”

“That’s rotten, that is. That’s only bloody rotten.” Richie’s face was pulled into a grimace.

“Yeah,” I said, “it is. And by the time we get to the scene, you need to be over that. Rule Number One, and you can write this down: no emotions on scene. Count to ten, say the rosary, make sick jokes, do whatever you need to do. If you need a few tips on coping, ask me now.”

“I’m all right.”

“You’d better be. The wife’s sister is out there, and she’s not interested in how much you care. She just needs to know you’re on top of this.”

“I am on top of it.”

“Good. Have a read.”

I passed him the call sheet and gave him thirty seconds to skim it. His face changed when he concentrated: he looked older, and smarter. “When we get out there,” I said, once his time was up, “what’s the first question you’re going to want to ask the uniforms?”

“The weapon. Has it been found at the scene?”

“Why not ‘Any signs of forced entry?’”

“Someone could fake those.”

I said, “Let’s not beat around the bush. By ‘someone,’ you mean Patrick or Jennifer Spain.”

The wince was small enough that I could have missed it, if I hadn’t been watching for it. “Anyone who had access. A relative, or a mate. Anyone they’d let in.”

“That’s not what you had in mind, though, was it? You were thinking of the Spains.”

“Yeah. I guess.”

“It happens, old son. No point pretending it doesn’t. The fact that Jennifer Spain survived puts her front and center. On the other hand, when it plays out like this, it’s usually the father: a woman just takes out the kids and herself, a man goes for the whole family. Either way, though, they don’t normally bother to fake forced entry. They’re way past caring about that.”

“Still. I figure we can decide that for ourselves, once the Bureau gets there; we won’t be taking the uniforms’ word for it. The weapon, though: I’d want to know about that straightaway.”

“Good man. That’s top of the list for the uniforms, all right. And what’s the first thing you’ll want to ask the sister?”

“Whether anyone had anything against Jennifer Spain. Or Patrick Spain.”

“Well, sure, but that’s something we’re going to ask everyone we can find. What do you want to ask Fiona Rafferty, specifically?”

He shook his head.

“No? Personally, I’d be very interested to hear what she’s doing there.”

“It says—” Richie held up the call sheet. “The two of them talked every day. She couldn’t get through.”

“So? Think about the timing, Richie. Let’s say they normally talk at, what, nine o’clock, once the hubbies are off to work and the kids are off to school—”

“Or once they’re in work themselves, the women. They could have jobs.”

“Jennifer Spain didn’t, or the sister’s problem would have been ‘She’s not in work,’ not ‘I couldn’t get through.’ So Fiona rings Jennifer at nine-ish, maybe half past eight at the earliest—up until then, they’d still be busy getting their day underway. And at ten thirty-six”—I tapped the call sheet—“she’s in Brianstown calling the uniforms. I don’t know where Fiona Rafferty lives, or where she works, but I do know Brianstown is a good hour’s drive away from just about anything. In other words, when Jennifer’s an hour late for their morning chat—and that’s an hour maximum, it could be a lot less—Fiona gets panicked enough to drop everything and haul her arse out to the back of beyond. That sounds a lot like overreacting to me. I don’t know about you, my man, but I’d love to know what had her knickers in such a twist.”

“She mightn’t be an hour away. Maybe she lives next door, just called round to see what the story was.”

“Then why drive? If she’s too far away to walk, then she’s far enough away that her going over there is odd. And here’s Rule Number Two: when someone’s behavior is odd, that’s a little present just for you, and you don’t let go of it till you’ve got it unwrapped. This isn’t Motor Vehicles, Richie. In this gig, you don’t get to say, ‘Ah, sure, it’s probably not important, she was just in a funny mood that day, let’s forget it.’ Ever.”

There was the kind of silence that meant the conversation wasn’t over. Finally Richie said, “I’m a good detective.”

“I’m pretty sure you’re going to be an excellent detective, someday. But right now, you’ve still got just about everything left to learn.”

“Whether I wear ties or not.”

I said, “You’re not fifteen, chum. Dressing like a mugger doesn’t make you a big daring threat to the Establishment; it just makes you a prat.”

Richie fingered the thin cloth of his shirt front. He said, picking his words carefully, “I know the Murder lads aren’t usually from where I’m from. Everyone else comes from farmers, yeah? Or from teachers. I’m not what anyone expects. I understand that.”

His eyes, when I glanced across, were green and level. I said, “It doesn’t matter where you come from. There’s nothing you can do about it, so don’t waste your energy thinking about it. What matters is where you’re going. And that, mate, is something you can control.”

“I know that. I’m here, amn’t I?”

“And it’s my job to help you get further. One of the ways you take charge of where you’re going is by acting like you’re already there. Do you follow me?”

He looked blank.

“Put it this way. Why do you think we’re driving a Beemer?”

Richie shrugged. “Figured you liked the car.”

I took a hand off the wheel to point a finger at him. “You figured my ego liked the car, you mean. Don’t fool yourself: it’s not that simple. These aren’t shoplifters we’re going after, Richie. Murderers are the big fish in this pond. What they do is a big deal. If we tool up to the scene in a beat-up ’95 Toyota, it looks disrespectful; like we don’t think the victims deserve our best. That puts people’s backs up. Is that how you want to start off?”

“No.”

“No, it’s not. And, on top of that, a beat-up old Toyota would make us look like a pair of losers. That matters, my man. Not just to my ego. If the bad guys see a pair of losers, they feel like their balls are bigger than ours, and that makes it harder to break them down. If the good guys see a pair of losers, they figure we’ll never solve this case, so why should they bother trying to help us? And if we see a pair of losers every time we look in the mirror, what do you think happens to our odds of winning?”

“They go down. I guess.”

“Bingo. If you want to come out a success, Richie, you cannot go in smelling of failure. Do you get what I’m saying here?”

He touched the knot in his new tie. “Dress better. Basically.”

“Except that it’s not basic, old son. There’s nothing basic about it. The rules are there for a reason. Before you go breaking them, you might want to have a think about what that reason might be.”

I hit the M1 and opened up wide, letting the Beemer do her thing. Richie glanced at the speedometer, but I knew without looking that I was bang on the limit, not a single mile over, and he kept his mouth shut. Probably he was thinking what a boring bollix I was. Plenty of people think the same thing. All of them are teenagers, mentally if not physically. Only teenagers think boring is bad. Adults, grown men and women who’ve been around the block a few times, know that boring is a gift straight from God. Life has more than enough excitement up its sleeve, ready to hit you with as soon as you’re not looking, without you adding to the drama. If Richie didn’t know that already, he was about to find out.

* * *

I’m a big believer in development—blame the property developers and their tame bankers and politicians for this recession if you want, but the fact is, if it wasn’t for them thinking big, we’d never have got out of the last one. I’d rather see an apartment block any day, all charged up with people who go out to work every morning and keep this country buzzing and then come home to the nice little places they’ve earned, than a field doing bugger-all good to anyone except a couple of cows. Places are like people are like sharks: if they stop moving, they die. But everyone has one place that they like to think is never going to change.

I used to know Broken Harbor like the back of my hand, when I was a skinny little guy with home-cut hair and mended jeans. Kids nowadays grew up on sun holidays during the boom, two weeks in the Costa del Sol is their bare minimum. But I’m forty-two and our generation had low expectations. A few days by the Irish Sea in a rented caravan put you ahead of the pack.

Broken Harbor was nowhere, back then. A dozen scattered houses full of families named Whelan or Lynch who’d been there since evolution began, a shop called Lynch’s and a pub called Whelan’s, and a handful of caravan spaces, just a fast barefoot run over slipping sand dunes and between tufts of marram grass to the cream-colored sweep of beach. We got two weeks there every June, in a rusty four-bunker that my dad booked a year in advance. Geri and I got the top bunks; Dina got stuck on the bottom, opposite my parents. Geri got first pick because she was the oldest, but she always wanted the land-facing side so she could see the ponies in the field behind us. That meant I got to open my eyes every morning on white lines of sea foam and leggy birds dashing along the sand, all of it glinting in the early light.

The three of us were up and out at daybreak with a slice of bread and sugar in each hand. We had all-day games of pirates with the kids from the other caravans, went freckly and peeling from salt and windburn and the odd hour of sunshine. For tea my mother would fry up eggs and sausages on a camping stove, and afterwards my father would send us to Lynch’s for ice creams. We’d come back to find my mum sitting on his lap, leaning her head into the curve of his neck and smiling dreamily out at the water; he’d wind her hair around his free hand, so the sea breeze wouldn’t whip it into her ice cream. I waited all year to see them look like that.

Once I got the Beemer off the main roads I started remembering the route, like I had known I would, just a faded sketch at the back of my head: past this clump of trees—taller, now—left at that kink in the stone wall. Right where the water should have risen into view over a low green hill, though, the estate came charging up out of nowhere and blocked our way like a barricade: rows of slate roofs and white gables stretching for what looked like miles in either direction, behind a high breeze-block wall. The signboard at the entrance said, in flamboyant curly lettering the size of my head, WELCOME TO OCEAN VIEW, BRIANSTOWN. A NEW REVELATION IN PREMIER LIVING. LUXURY HOUSES NOW VIEWING. Someone had spray painted a big red cock and balls over it.

At first glance, Ocean View looked pretty tasty: big detached houses that gave you something substantial for your money, trim strips of green, quaint signposts pointing you towards LITTLE GEMS CHILDCARE and DIAMONDCUT LEISURE CENTER. Second glance, the grass needed weeding and there were gaps in the footpaths. Third glance, something was wrong.

The houses were too much alike. Even on the ones where a triumphant red-and-blue sign yelled SOLD, no one had painted the front door a crap color, put flowerpots on the windowsills or tossed plastic kiddie toys on the lawn. There was a scattering of parked cars, but most of the driveways were empty, and not in a way that said everyone was out powering the economy. You could look straight through three out of four houses, to bare rear windows and gray patches of sky. A heavyset girl in a red anorak was shoving a buggy along a footpath, wind grabbing at her hair. She and her moon-faced kid could have been the only people within miles.

“Jaysus,” Richie said; in the silence his voice was loud enough that both of us jumped. “The village of the damned.”

The call sheet said 9 Ocean View Rise, which would have made more sense if the Irish Sea had been an ocean or even if it had been visible, but I guess you make the most of whatever you’ve got. The GPS was getting out of its depth: it took us down Ocean View Drive, dead-ended us down Ocean View Grove—which hit the trifecta by having no trees anywhere in sight—and informed us, “You have reached your destination. Good-bye.”

I did a U-turn and went looking. As we got deeper into the estate, the houses got sketchier, like watching a film in reverse. Pretty soon they were random collections of walls and scaffolding, with the odd gaping hole for a window; where the housefronts were missing the rooms were littered with broken ladders, lengths of pipe, rotting cement bags. Every time we turned a corner I expected to see a swarm of builders at work, but the nearest we got was a battered yellow digger in a vacant lot, listing sideways among churned-up mud and scattered mounds of dirt.

No one lived here. I tried to aim us back in the general direction of the entrance, but the estate was built like one of those old hedge mazes, all cul-de-sacs and hairpin turns, and almost straightaway we were lost. A tiny dart of panic shot through me. I’ve never liked losing my bearings.

I pulled up at an intersection—reflex: it wasn’t like anyone was going to dash out in front of me—and in the quiet where the noise of the motor had been, we heard the deep boom of the sea. Then Richie’s head went up. He said, “What’s that?”

It was a short, raw, ripped-open shriek, repeating over and over, so regular it sounded mechanical. It spread out across mud and concrete and bounced off unfinished walls till it could have come from anywhere, or everywhere. As far as I could tell, that and the sea were the only sounds on the estate.

I said, “I’m going to bet that’s the sister.”

He gave me a look like he thought I was yanking his chain. “That’s a fox or something. Run over, maybe.”

“And here I thought you were Mr. Streetwise who knew just how bad this was going to be. You’re going to need to brace yourself, Richie. Big time.”

I rolled down a window and followed the sound. The echoes led me off course a few times, but we knew it when we saw it. One side of Ocean View Rise was pristine, bay-windowed white semi-ds lined up in pairs, neat as dominoes; the other side was scaffolding and rubble. Between the dominoes, over the estate wall, slivers of gray sea moved. A couple of the houses had a car or two in front of them, but one house had three: a white Volvo hatchback that had Family written all over it, a yellow Fiat Seicento that had seen better days, and a marked car. There was blue-and-white crime-scene tape along the low garden wall.

I meant what I said to Richie: in this job everything matters, down to the way you open your car door. Long before I say Word One to a witness, or a suspect, he needs to know that Mick Kennedy is in the house and that I’ve got this case by the balls. Some of it is luck—I’ve got height, I’ve got a full head of hair and it’s still ninety-nine percent dark brown, I’ve got decent looks if I say so myself, and all those things help—but I’ve put practice and treadmill time into the rest. I kept up my speed till the last second, braked hard, swung myself and my briefcase out of the car in one smooth move and headed for the house at a swift, efficient pace. Richie would learn to keep up.

One of the uniforms was squatting awkwardly by his car, patting at someone in the back seat who was pretty clearly the source of the screaming. The other one was pacing in front of the gate, too fast, with his hands clasped behind his back. The air smelled fresh, sweet and salty: sea and fields. It was colder out there than it had been in Dublin. Wind whistled halfheartedly through scaffolding and exposed beams.

The guy who was pacing was my age, with a paunch and a sandbagged look: he had obviously made it through twenty years on the force without seeing anything like this, and had been hoping to make it through twenty more. He said, “Garda Wall. That’s Garda Mallon, by the car.”

Richie was sticking out a hand. It was like having a puppy. I said, before he could start buddying up, “Detective Sergeant Kennedy and Detective Garda Curran. You’ve been in the house?”

“Only when we got here first. As soon as we could, we got out and rang ye.”

“Good call. Tell me exactly what you did, entrance to exit.”

The uniform’s eyes went to the house, like he could hardly believe it was the same place he had arrived at only a couple of hours earlier. He said, “We were called in for a welfare check—the occupant’s sister was worried. We reached the premises just after eleven o’clock and attempted to make contact with the residents by ringing the doorbell and by phone, but got no response. We saw no signs of forced entry, but when we looked in the front window, the lights on the ground floor were on and the sitting room appeared to be in some disorder. The walls—”

“We’ll see the disorder for ourselves in a minute. Carry on.” Never let anyone describe the details before you get on the scene, or you’ll see what they saw.

“Right.” The uniform blinked, pulled himself back on track. “Anyhow. We attempted to go around to the back of the house, but you can see for yourselves, sure—a child couldn’t get through there.” He was right: the gap between the houses was just wide enough for the side wall. “We felt that the disorder and the sister’s concerns warranted forcing entry through the front door. We found . . .”

He was shifting on his feet, trying to angle the conversation so that he could see the house, like it was a coiled animal that might pounce at any second. “We entered the sitting room, found nothing to speak of—the disorder, but . . . We then proceeded to the kitchen, where we found a male and a female on the floor. Both stabbed, by the looks of it. One wound, on the female’s face, was clearly visible to myself and Garda Mallon. It appeared to be a knife wound. It—”

“The doctors’ll decide that. What did you do next?”

“We thought they were both dead. We were certain. There’s a load of blood. Loads of . . .” He gestured vaguely towards his own body, a shapeless pecking movement. There’s a reason why some guys stay in uniform. “Garda Mallon checked their pulses all the same, just in case. The female, she was right up against the male, like curled up against him—she had her head, her head was on his arm, like she was asleep . . . When Garda Mallon checked, she had a pulse. He got the shock of his life. We never expected . . . He couldn’t believe it, not till he put down his head and heard her breathing. Then we called for the ambulance.”

“And while you waited?”

“Garda Mallon stayed with the woman. Talked to her. She was unconscious, but . . . just telling her it was all right, we were the Guards, there was an ambulance coming and for her to hang on . . . I went upstairs. In the back bedrooms . . . There’s two little children there, Detective. A young boy and a young girl, in their beds. I tried CPR. They’re—they were cold, stiff, but I tried anyway. After what had happened with the mother, I thought, you never know, maybe they could still . . .” He rubbed his hands down the front of his jacket, unconsciously, like he was trying to wipe away the feel. I didn’t give him a bollocking for wrecking evidence: he had only done what came naturally. “No joy. Once I knew for definite, I rejoined Garda Mallon in the kitchen and we called for ye and the rest.”

I asked, “Did the woman come to? Say anything?”

He shook his head. “She didn’t move. We kept thinking she was after dying on us, had to keep checking to make sure she was still . . .” He wiped his hands again.

“Do we have anyone at the hospital with her?”

“We called in to the station, had them send someone. Maybe one of us should have gone with her, but with the scene to be secured, and the sister—she was . . . Sure, you can hear.”

“You broke the news,” I said. I do the notification myself, any time I can. You can tell a lot from that first reaction.

The uniform said defensively, “We told her to stay put, before we went in, but we’d no one to stay with her. She waited a good while, but then she came in. Into the house. We were with the victim, we were waiting for ye; the sister was at the kitchen door before we saw her. She started screaming. I got her outside again, but she was fighting . . . I had to tell her, Detective. It was the only way I could stop her trying to get back in, short of handcuffing her.”

“Right. We won’t cry over spilled milk. What next?”

“I stayed outside with the sister. Garda Mallon waited with the victim until the ambulance arrived. Then he left the house.”

“Without doing a search?”

“I went back in, once he came out to stay with the sister. Garda Mallon, sir, he’s all over blood; he didn’t want to track it around the house. I performed a basic security search, just to confirm that there was no one on the premises. No one alive, like. We left the in-depth search for ye and the Bureau.”

“That’s what I like to hear.” I flicked an eyebrow at Richie. The kid was paying attention: he asked, promptly, “Did you find a weapon?”

The uniform shook his head. “But it could be in there. Under the man’s body, or . . . anywhere. Like I said, we tried not to disturb the scene any more than we had to.”

“How about a note?”

Another head-shake.

I nodded towards the marked car. “How’s the sister been doing?”

“We’ve been getting her calmed down a bit, off and on, but every time . . .” The uniform threw a harassed look over his shoulder at the car. “The paramedics wanted to give her a sedative, but she wouldn’t take it. We can get them back, if—”

“Keep trying. I don’t want her sedated if we can help it, not till we’ve talked to her. We’re going to take a look around the scene. The rest of the team are on their way: if the pathologist arrives, you can have him wait here, but make sure the morgue boys and the Tech Bureau keep their distance till we’ve had a go at the sister—one look at them and she’ll flip out for real. Apart from that, keep her where she is, keep the neighbors where they are, and if anyone happens to wander up, keep him where he is too. Clear?”

“Grand,” said the uniform. He would have done the chicken dance if I’d told him to, he was so relieved that someone was taking this thing off his hands. I could see him itching to get down to his local and throw back a double whiskey in one gulp.

I didn’t want to be anywhere except inside that house. “Gloves,” I said to Richie. “Shoe covers.” I was already flipping mine out of my pocket. He fumbled for his, and we started up the drive. The long boom and shush of the sea rushed up and met us head-on, like a welcome or a challenge. Behind us, those shrieks were still coming down like hammer blows.

We don’t get crime scenes to ourselves. They’re off-limits, even to us, till the Bureau techs give the all clear. Until then, there are always other things that need doing—witnesses who need interviewing, survivors who need notifying—and you do those, check your watch every thirty seconds and force yourself to ignore the fierce pull from behind that crime-scene tape. This one was different. The uniforms and the paramedics had already trampled over every inch of the Spains’ house; Richie and I weren’t going to make anything worse by taking a quick look.

It was convenient—if Richie couldn’t hack the bad stuff, it would be nice to find out without an audience—but it was more than that. When you get a chance to see a scene that way, you take it. What waits for you there is the crime itself, every screaming second of it, trapped and held for you in amber. It doesn’t matter if someone’s cleaned up, hidden evidence, tried to fake a suicide: the amber holds all that too. Once the processing starts, that’s gone for good; all that’s left is your own people swarming over the scene, busily dismantling it print by print and fiber by fiber. This chance felt like a gift, on this case where I needed it most; like a good omen. I set my phone on silent. Plenty of people were going to want to get hold of me, over the next while. All of them could wait till I had walked my scene.

The door of the house was a few inches open, swaying gently when the breeze caught it. When it was in one piece it had looked like solid oak, but where the uniforms had splintered it away from the lock you could see the powdery reconstituted crap underneath. It had probably taken them one shove. Through the crack: a geometric black-and-white rug, high-trend with a high price tag to match.

I said to Richie, “This is just a preliminary walk-through. The serious stuff can wait till the Bureau lads have the scene on record. For now, we don’t touch anything, we try not to stand on anything, we try not to breathe on anything, we get a basic sense of what we’re dealing with and we get out. Ready?”

He nodded. I pushed the door open with one fingertip on the splintered edge.

My first thought was that if this was what Garda Whatever called disorder, he had OCD issues. The hallway was dim and perfect: sparkling mirror, organized coatrack, smell of lemon room freshener. The walls were clean. On one of them was a watercolor, something green and peaceful with cows.

My second thought: the Spains had had an alarm system. The panel was a fancy modern one, discreetly tucked away behind the door. The OFF light was a steady yellow.

Then I saw the hole in the wall. Someone had moved the phone table in front of it, but it was big enough that a jagged half-moon still poked out. That was when I felt it: that needle-fine vibration, starting in my temples and moving down the bones into my eardrums. Some detectives feel it in the backs of their necks, some get it in the hair on their arms—I know one poor sap who gets it in the bladder, which can be inconvenient—but all the good ones feel it somewhere. It gets me in the skull bones. Call it what you want—social deviance, psychological disturbance, the animal within, evil if you believe in that: it’s the thing we spend our lives chasing. All the training in the world won’t give you that warning when it comes close. You get it or you don’t.

I took a quick look at Richie: grimacing and licking his lips, like an animal that’s tasted something putrid. He got it in his mouth, which he would need to learn to hide, but at least he got it.

Off to our left was a half-open door: sitting room. Straight ahead, the stairs and the kitchen.

Someone had put time into doing up the sitting room. Brown leather sofas, sleek chrome-and-glass coffee table, one wall painted butter yellow for one of those reasons that only women and interior designers understand. For the lived-in look, there was a good big telly, a Wii, a scattering of glossy gadgets, a little shelf for paperbacks and another one for DVDs and games, candles and blond photos on the mantelpiece of the gas fire. It should have felt welcoming, but damp had buckled the flooring and blotched a wall, and the low ceiling and the just-wrong proportions were stubborn. They outweighed all that loving care and turned the room cramped and dim, a place where no one could feel comfortable for long.

Curtains almost drawn, just the crack that the uniforms had looked through. Standing lamps on. Whatever had happened, it had happened at night, or someone wanted me to think it had.

Above the gas fire was another hole in the wall, about the size of a dinner plate. There was a bigger one by the sofa. Pipes and straggling wires half showed from the dark inside.

Beside me Richie was trying to keep the fidgeting down to a minimum, but I could feel one knee jiggling. He wanted the bad moments over and done with. I said, “Kitchen.”

It was hard to believe that the same guy who had designed the sitting room had come up with this. It was a kitchen-cum-dining-room-cum-playroom, running the whole length of the back of the house, and it was mostly made of glass. Outside the day was still gray, but the light in that room was full and dazzling enough to make you blink, with a lift and a clarity that told you the sea was very near. I’ve never been able to see why it’s supposed to be a plus if your neighbors can check out what you’re having for breakfast—give me net-curtain privacy any day, trendy or not—but that light almost made me understand.

Behind the trim little garden there were two more rows of half-built houses, crowding stark and ugly against the sky, a long banner of plastic flapping hard from a bare beam. Behind them was the estate wall, and then as the land fell away there it was, through the raw angles of wood and concrete: the view my eyes had been waiting for all day long, ever since I heard myself say Broken Harbor. The rounded curve of the bay, neat as the C of your hand; the low hills cupping it at each end; the soft gray sand, the marram grass bending away from the clean wind, the little birds scattered along the waterline. And the sea, high today, raising itself up at me green and muscled. The weight of what was in the kitchen with us tilted the world, sent the water rocking upwards like it was going to come crashing through all that bright glass.

That same care that had trendified the sitting room had gone into making this room cheerful and homey. Long table in pale wood, sunflower yellow chairs; a computer on a wooden desk painted yellow to match; colored plastic kid stuff, beanbags, a chalkboard. There were crayon drawings framed on the walls. The room was neat, especially for a place where kids played. Someone had tidied up, as the four of them moved onto the furthest edge of their last day. They had made it that far.

The room was an estate agent’s dream, except that it was impossible to imagine anyone living there, ever again. Some frantic struggle had thrown the table over, slamming one corner into a window and cracking a great star across the glass. More holes in the walls: one high above the table, a big one behind an overturned Lego castle. A beanbag had burst open and spilled tiny white pellets everywhere; a trail of cookbooks fanned out across the floor, shards of glass glinted where a picture frame had smashed. The blood was everywhere: fans of spatter flying up the walls, crazy trails of drips and footprints crisscrossing the tile floor, wide smears on the windows, thick clumps soaked into the yellow fabric of the chairs. A few inches from my feet was one ripped half of a height chart, big beanstalk leaves and a climbing cartoon kid, Emma 17/06/09 almost obliterated by clotting red.

Patrick Spain was at the far end of the room, in what had been the kids’ play area, among the beanbags and crayons and picture books. He was in his pajamas—navy top, navy-and-white-striped bottoms splotched with dark crusts. He was facedown on the floor, one arm bent under him, the other stretched out over his head, like right up until the last second he had been trying to crawl. His head was towards us: trying to reach his kids, maybe, for whichever reason you choose. He had been fair-haired, a tall guy with broad shoulders; the build said maybe rugby, way back when, going to seed now. You would have wanted to be pretty strong, pretty angry or pretty crazy to take him on. Blood had turned sticky and dark in a puddle spreading from under his chest. It was smeared all around with a godawful tangle of swipes, handprints, drag marks; a snarl of mixed footprints came out of the mess and headed towards us, fading to nothing halfway across the tiles, like the bloodstained walkers had dissolved into thin air.

To his left the pool of blood spread wider, thicker, with a rich gloss to it. We would have to double-check with the uniforms, but it was a pretty safe bet that that was where they had found Jennifer Spain. Either she had dragged herself over to die curled up against her husband, or he had stayed close after he was done with her, or someone had let them do this last thing together.

I stayed in the doorway longer than I needed to. It takes a while to wrap your head around a scene like that, the first time. Your inner world snaps itself away from the outside one, for protection: your eyes are wide open, but all that reaches your mind is streaks of red and an error message. No one was watching us; Richie could take all the time he needed. I kept my eyes off him.

A gust of wind crashed into the back of the house and kept coming straight through some crack, flooded around us like cold water. “Jaysus,” Richie said. The gust had made him jump, and he was a shade paler than usual, but his voice was steady enough. He was doing fine, so far. “Feel that. What’s this gaff made of? Newspapers?”

“Don’t knock it. The thinner the walls, the more likely the neighbors heard something.”

“If there’s neighbors.”

“We’ll keep our fingers crossed. Ready to move on?”

He nodded. We left Patrick Spain in his bright kitchen, with the thin streams of wind swirling around him, and went upstairs.

The top floor was dark. I flipped open my briefcase and found my torch—the uniforms had probably smeared their fat paws all over everything, but still, you never touch light switches: someone else could have wanted that light on or off. I turned on the torch and nudged the nearest door open with a toe.

The message had got garbled somewhere along the way, because no one had stabbed Jack Spain. After the congealing red mess downstairs, this room was almost restful. Nothing was bloody; nothing had been broken or wrenched over. Jack Spain had a snub nose and blond hair, left to grow into curls. He was on his back, arms thrown up above his head, face turned to the ceiling, like he had collapsed asleep after a long day of football. You would almost have listened to hear him breathing, except something in his face told you. He had the secret calm that only dead children have, paper-thin eyelids sealed tight as unborn babies’, as if when the world goes killer they turn inwards and backwards, back to that first safe place.

Richie made a small noise like a cat with a hairball. I trailed the torch around the room, to give him time to pull it together. There were a couple of cracks in the walls, but no holes, unless they were hidden by the posters—Jack had been into Manchester United. “Got kids?” I asked.

“No. Not yet.”

He was keeping his voice down, like he could still wake Jack Spain, or give him bad dreams. I said, “Neither do I. Days like this, that’s a good thing. Kids make you soft. You get a detective who’s tough as nails, can watch a post-mortem and order a rare steak for lunch; then his wife pops out a sprog and next thing you know he’s losing the plot if a victim’s under eighteen. I’ve seen it a dozen times. Every time, I thank God for contraception.”

I turned the torch back to the bed. My sister Geri has kids, and I spend enough time with them that I could take a rough guess at Jack Spain’s age: around four, maybe three if he had been on the big side. The duvet was pulled back where the uniform had tried his useless CPR: red pajamas twisted up, delicate rib cage underneath. I could even see the dent where the CPR, or I hoped it was the CPR, had snapped a rib or two.

There was blue around his lips. Richie said, “Suffocated?”

He was working hard at keeping his voice under control. I said, “We’ll have to wait for the post-mortem, but it looks possible. If that’s what we’ve got, it points towards the parents. A lot of the time they go for something gentle. If that’s the word I’m looking for.”

I still wasn’t looking at him, but I felt him tighten to hold back a wince. I said, “Let’s go find the daughter.”

No holes in the walls here either, no struggle. The uniform had pulled Emma Spain’s pink duvet back up over her, when he gave up—preserving her modesty, because she was a girl. She had the same snub nose as her brother, but her curls were a sandy ginger and she had a faceful of freckles, standing out against the blue-white underneath. She was the older one, six, seven: her mouth was a touch open, and I could see the gap where a front tooth was gone. The room was princess pink, full of frills and flounces; the bed was heaped with embroidered pillows, huge-eyed kittens and puppies staring up at us. Springing out of darkness in the torchlight, next to that small empty face, they looked like scavengers.

I didn’t look at Richie till we were back out on the landing. Then I asked, “Notice anything odd about both rooms?”

Even in that light he looked like he had a bad case of food poisoning. He had to swallow extra spit twice before he could say, “No blood.”

“Bingo.” I nudged the bathroom door open with my torch. Color-coordinated towels, plastic bath toys, the usual shampoos and shower gels, sparkling white fixtures. If someone had washed up in here, they had known how to be careful. “We’ll get the Bureau to hit this floor with Luminol, check for traces, but unless we’re missing something, either there was more than one killer or he went after the kids first. No one came from that mess”—I nodded downwards at the kitchen—“and touched anything up here.”

Richie said, “It’s looking like an inside job, isn’t it?”

“How’s that?”

“If I’m some psycho that wants to wipe out a whole family, I’m not going to start with the kids. What if one of the parents hears something, comes in to check on them while I’m in the middle of doing the job? Next thing I know, I’ve got the ma and the da both beating the shite out of me. Nah: I’m going to wait till everyone’s well asleep, and then I’m going to start by taking out the biggest threats. The only reason I’d start here”—his mouth twitched, but he kept it together—“is if I know I’m not gonna get interrupted. That means one of the parents.”

I said, “Right. It’s far from definitive, but on first glance, that’s how it looks. Did you notice the other thing pointing the same way?”

He shook his head. I said, “The front door. It’s got two locks, a Chubb and a Yale, and before the uniforms forced entry, both of them were on. That door wasn’t just pulled closed as someone left; it was locked with a key. And I haven’t seen any windows open or broken. So if someone got in from outside, or the Spains let someone in, how did he get back out? Again, it’s not definitive—one of the windows could be unlocked, the keys could have been taken, a friend or associate could have a set; we’ll have to check out all of those. But it’s indicative. On the other hand . . .” I pointed with the torch: another hole, maybe the size of a paperback book, low over the skirting board on the landing. “How would your walls end up with this kind of damage?”

“A fight. After the . . .” Richie rubbed at his mouth again. “After the kids, or they’d have woken up. Looks to me like someone put up a good old struggle.”

“Someone probably did, but that’s not what wrecked the walls. Get your head clear and look again. That damage wasn’t done last night. Want to tell me why?”

Slowly, the green look started to get replaced by that concentration I had seen in the car. After a moment Richie said, “No blood around the holes. And no bits of plaster underneath. No dust, even. Someone’s tidied up.”

“Right you are. It’s possible that the killer or killers stuck around to give the place a good hoover, for reasons of his own; but unless we find something to say that happened, the most likely explanation is that the holes were made at least a couple of days ago, could be a lot more. Got any ideas on where they might have come from?”

He looked better now that he was working. “Structural problems? Damp, subsidence, maybe someone working on faulty wiring . . . There’s damp in the sitting room—did you see the floorboards, yeah, and the patch on the wall?—and there’s cracks all over the place; wouldn’t be surprised if the wiring’s banjaxed too. The whole estate’s a tip.”

“Maybe. We’ll get a building inspector to come down and take a look. But let’s be honest, it’d take a pretty crap electrician to leave the place in this state. Any other explanations you can think of?”

Richie sucked on his teeth and gave the hole a long thoughtful stare. “If I was just going off the top of my head,” he said, “I’d say someone was looking for something.”

“So would I. That could mean guns or valuables, but usually it’s the old reliables: drugs or cash. We’ll have the Bureau check for drug residue.”

“But,” Richie said. He jerked his chin at the door of Emma’s room. “The kids. The parents were holding something that could get them killed? With the kids in the house?”

“I thought the Spains were top of your suspect list.”

“That’s different. People snap, do mad things. That can happen to anyone. A K of smack behind the wallpaper, where your kids could find it: that doesn’t just happen.”

There was a creak below us and we both spun around, but it was just the front door swaying in a snatch of wind. I said, “Come on, old son. I’ve seen it a hundred times. I’m betting you have too.”

“Not with people like this.”

I raised my eyebrows. “I wouldn’t have taken you for a snob.”

“Nah, I’m not talking about class. I mean these people tried. Look at the place: everything’s right, know what I mean? It’s all clean; even down behind the jacks is clean. All the stuff matches. Even the spices in the rack, they’re in date, all the ones where I could see the best-by. This family tried to get everything right. Messing about with the dodgy stuff . . . It just doesn’t seem like their style.”

I said, “It doesn’t seem like it right now, no. But keep in mind, right now we know bugger-all about these people. They kept their house in good nick, at least occasionally, and they got killed. I’m telling you the second one means a lot more than the first. Anyone can hoover. Not everyone gets murdered.”

Richie, bless his innocent heart, was giving me a look that was pure skepticism with a touch of moral outrage thrown in. “Loads of murder victims never did anything dangerous in their lives.”

“Some didn’t, no. But loads? Here’s the dirty secret about your new job, Richie my friend. Here’s the part you never saw in interviews or documentaries, because we keep it to ourselves. Most victims went looking for exactly what they got.”

His mouth started to open. I said, “Obviously not kids. The kids aren’t what we’re discussing here. But adults . . . If you try to sell smack on some other scumbag’s turf, or if you go ahead and marry Prince Charming after he puts you in the ICU four times running, or if you stab some guy because his brother stabbed your friend for stabbing his cousin, then forgive me if this is politically incorrect, but you’re just begging for exactly what you’re eventually going to get. I know this isn’t what we get taught on the detective course, but out here in the real world, my man, you would be amazed at how seldom murder has to break into people’s lives. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, it gets there because they open the door and invite it in.”

Richie shifted his feet—the draft was sweeping up the stairs to eddy round our ankles, rattle the handle of Emma’s door. He said, “I’m not seeing how anyone could ask for this.”

“Neither am I, at least not yet. But if the Spains were living like the Waltons, then who bashed their walls in? And why didn’t they just call someone and get the place fixed—unless they didn’t want anyone knowing what they were involved with? Or what one of them was involved with, at least.”

He shrugged. I said, “You’re right: this could be the one in a hundred. We’ll keep an open mind. And if it is, that’s just another reason why we can’t get it wrong.”

Patrick and Jennifer Spain’s room was picture-perfect, just like the rest of the house. It had been done up in flowery pink and cream and gold to look olde-fashionede. No blood, no signs of struggle, not a speck of dust anywhere. One small hole, where the wall met the ceiling above the bed.

Two things stuck out. First thing: the duvet and sheets were rumpled and thrown back, like someone had just jumped up. The rest of the house said that bed didn’t get left unmade for long. At least one of them had been all tucked up, when it began.

Second thing: the bedside tables. Each of them had a little lamp with a tasselly cream shade; both the lamps were off. On the far table were a couple of girly-looking jars, face cream or whatever, a pink mobile phone and a book with a pink cover and kooky lettering. The near one was crammed with gadgets: what looked like two white walkie-talkies and two silver mobiles, all standing docked on chargers, and three empty chargers, all silver. I wasn’t sure where the walkie-talkies came in, but the only people who have five mobiles are high-flying stockbrokers and drug dealers, and this didn’t look like a stockbroker’s pad to me. For a second there, I thought things were starting to come together.

Then: “Jaysus,” Richie said, eyebrows going up. “They went a bit over the top, didn’t they?”

“How’s that?”

“The baby monitors.” He nodded at Patrick’s bedside table.

“That’s what those are?”

“Yeah. My sister’s got kids. Those white ones, that’s the bit you listen to. The ones that look like phones, those are video. Watch the kid sleep.”

“Big Brother style.” I moved the torch beam over the gadgets: white ones on, screens faintly backlit; silver ones off. “How many do people normally have? One per kid?”

“Dunno about most people. My sister’s got three kids and just the one monitor. It’s in the baby’s room, for when he’s asleep. When the girls were small she just had the audio, like those”—the walkie-talkies—“but the little fella was premature, so she got the video, keep an eye on him.”

“So the Spains were on the overprotective side. A monitor in every room.” Where I should have spotted them. It was one thing for Richie to get distracted by the big stuff and miss the details, but I was no virgin.

Richie shook his head. “Why, but? They were big enough to come get their ma if they needed her. And it’s not like this is a massive huge mansion: if they hurt themselves, you’d hear them yelling.”

I said, “Would you know the other halves of those things if you saw them?”

“Probably.”

“Good. Then let’s go find them.”

On Emma’s pink chest of drawers was a round white thing like a clock radio, which according to Richie was an audio monitor: “She’s a little old for it, but the parents could’ve been heavy sleepers, wanted to be sure they’d hear her if she called . . .” The other audio monitor was on Jack’s chest of drawers. No sign of the video cameras; not until we got back out onto the landing again. I said, “We’ll want the Bureau to check the attic, in case whoever was looking for—” and then I swung the torch beam up to the ceiling and stopped talking.

The hatch for the attic was there, all right. It was open onto blackness—the light caught the cover, propped up against something, and a flash of exposed roof beam high above. Someone had nailed wire mesh over the opening, from below, without worrying too much about aesthetics: ragged edges of wire, big nail heads sticking out at violent angles. In the opposite corner of the landing, high on the wall, was something silver and badly mounted that I didn’t need Richie to tell me was a video monitor. The camera was pointing straight at the hatch.

I said, “What the holy hell?”

“Rats? The holes—”

“You don’t set up bloody surveillance on rats. You keep the hatch down and call the exterminators.”

“Then what?”

“I don’t know. A trap, maybe, in case whoever bashed in the walls came back looking for Round Two. The Bureau are going to want to be careful up there.” I held the torch high and moved it around, trying to get a glimpse of what was in the attic. Cardboard boxes, a dusty black suitcase. “Let’s see if the rest of the cameras give us any hints.”

The second camera was in the sitting room, on a little chrome-and-glass table beside the sofa. It was aimed at the hole over the fireplace, and a little red light said it was switched on. The third one had rolled into a corner of the kitchen, where it was surrounded by beanbag pellets and pointing at the floor, but it was still plugged in: it had been up and running. There was a viewer half under the cooker—I had clocked it the first time round, taken it for a phone—and another under the kitchen table. No sign of the last one, or of the other two cameras.

I said, “We’ll give the Bureau a heads-up, have them keep an eye out. Anything you want another look at, before we bring them in?”

Richie looked unsure. I said, “It’s not a trick question, old son.”

“Oh. Right. Then no: I’m grand.”

“So am I. Let’s go.”

Another gust of wind grabbed the house, and this time both of us jumped. I would have done a lot of things sooner than let young Richie see this, but the place was starting to get to me. It wasn’t the kids, or the blood—like I said, I can handle both of those, no problem. Something about the holes in the wall, maybe, or the unblinking cameras; or about all that glass, all those skeleton houses staring in at us, like famine animals circled around the warmth of a fire. I reminded myself that I had dealt with worse scenes and never broken a sweat, but that shimmer moving through my skull bones said: This is different.

Unromantic little secret: half of being a Murder D is managerial skills. Trainees picture the lone wolf heading off into the wild after shadowy hunches, but in practice, guys who don’t play well with others wind up in Undercover. Even a small investigation—and this wasn’t going to be small—involves floaters, media liaisons, the Tech Bureau and the pathologist and the world and his auntie, and you need to make sure that at any given second all of them are keeping you up to speed, no one’s getting in anyone’s way and everyone is working to your big plan, because the buck stops with you. That slow-motion silence inside the amber was over: the second we stepped out of the house, before we even stopped walking quietly, it was time to start people-wrangling.

Cooper, the pathologist, was outside the gate, tapping his fingers on his case and not looking happy. Not that he would have anyway: at his best Cooper is a negative little bastard, and he’s not at his best around me. I’ve never done anything to him, but for some reason all his own he doesn’t like me, and when an arrogant bollix like Cooper doesn’t like you, he does it right. One typo on a request form and he sends it back and makes me start over, and forget putting a rush on anything: my stuff waits its turn, urgent or not. “Detective Kennedy,” he said, flaring his nostrils like I smelled. “May I ask whether I resemble a waiter?”

“Not at all. Dr. Cooper, this is Detective Curran, my partner.”

He ignored Richie. “I am relieved to hear it. In that case, why am I waiting?”

He must have spent the delay coming up with that one. “I apologize,” I said. “There must have been some misunderstanding. Obviously I’d never waste your time. We’ll leave you to it.”

Cooper gave me a withering look that said he wasn’t falling for it. “We can only hope,” he said, “that you have managed not to contaminate the scene too extensively,” and he brushed past me, tugging his gloves more firmly into place, into the house.

No sign of my floaters yet. One of the uniforms was still hovering around the car and the sister. The other one was at the top of the road, talking to a handful of guys between two white vans: Tech Bureau, morgue. I said to Richie, “What do we do now?”

As soon as we got outside he had started jiggling again: whipping his head back and forth to check out the road, the sky, the other houses, drumming a little two-fingered tattoo on his thighs. The question stopped him. “Send the Bureau in?”

“Sure, but what are you planning on doing while they work? If we hang around asking ‘Are we there yet?’ we’ll just be wasting their time and ours.”

Richie nodded. “If it was up to me, I’d talk to the sister.”

“You don’t want to go see if Jenny Spain can tell us anything?”

“I figured it’s gonna be a while before she can talk to us. Even if . . .”

“Even if she makes it. You’re probably right, but we can’t take that for granted. We need to keep on top of it.”

I was already dialing my phone. The reception felt like we were in Outer Mongolia—we had to head down to the bottom of the road, clear of the houses, so I could get a signal—and it took a bunch of complicated back-and-forth calls before I got hold of the doctor who had admitted Jennifer Spain and got him convinced I wasn’t a reporter. He sounded young and viciously tired. “She’s still alive, anyway, but I can’t promise anything. She’s in surgery now. If she makes it through that, we’ll have a better idea.”

I hit speakerphone so Richie could get this. “Can you give me a description of her injuries?”

“I only examined her briefly. I can’t be sure—”

The sea wind whipped his voice away; Richie and I had to bend close over the phone. I said, “I’m just looking for a preliminary overview. Our own doctor will be examining her later, one way or the other. For now, all I need is a general idea of whether she was shot, strangled, drowned, you tell me.”

Sigh. “You understand this is provisional. I could be wrong.”

“Understood.”

“OK. Basically, she was lucky to make it this far. She has four abdominal injuries that look like knife wounds to me, but that’s for your doctor to decide. Two of them are deep, but they must have missed all the major organs and arteries, or she’d have bled out before she got here. There’s another injury to her right cheek, looks like a knife slash, straight through into the mouth—if she makes it, she’ll need considerable amounts of plastic surgery. There’s also some kind of blunt trauma to the back of the skull. X-ray showed a hairline fracture and a subdural hematoma, but judging by her reflexes there’s a decent chance she’s escaped without brain damage. Again, she was very lucky.”

Which was probably the last time anyone would ever use that word about Jennifer Spain. “Anything else?”

I could hear him swigging something, probably coffee, and swallowing a huge yawn. “Sorry. There could be minor injuries—I wasn’t looking for anything like that, my priority was getting her into surgery before we lost her, and the blood could have covered some cuts and contusions. There’s nothing else major, though.”

“Any signs of sexual assault?”

“Like I said, that wasn’t top priority. For what it’s worth, I didn’t see anything that would point that way.”

“What was she wearing?”

An instant of silence, while he wondered whether he had got it wrong and I was some specialized kind of pervert. “Yellow pajamas. Nothing else.”

“There should be an officer at the hospital. I’d like you to put her pajamas in a paper bag and hand them over to him. Make a note of anyone who touched them, if you can.” I had chalked up two more points for Jennifer Spain being a victim. Women don’t wreck their faces, and they sure as hell don’t go in their pajamas. They put on their best dresses, take time over their mascara and pick a method that they believe—and they’re almost always wrong—will leave them quiet and graceful, all the pain washed away and nothing left but cool pale peace. Somewhere in what’s left of their crumbling minds, they think that being found looking less than their best will upset them. Most suicides don’t really believe that death is all the way. Maybe none of us do.

“We gave him the pajamas. I’ll make the list as soon as I get a chance.”

“Did she recover consciousness at any stage?”

“No. Like I said, there’s a fair chance she never will. We’ll know more after the surgery.”

“If she makes it, when do you think we’d be able to talk to her?”

Sigh. “Your guess is as good as mine. With head wounds, nothing’s predictable.”

“Thanks, Doctor. Can you let me know straightaway if anything changes?”

“I’ll do my best. If you’ll excuse me, I have to—”

And he was gone. I put in a quick call to Bernadette, the squad admin, to let her know that I needed someone to get started on pulling the Spains’ financials and phone records, and put a rush on it. I was hanging up when my phone buzzed: three new voice messages, from calls that hadn’t got through the shitty reception. O’Kelly, letting me know he had wangled me a couple of extra floaters; a journalist contact, begging for a scoop he wasn’t going to get this time; and Geri. Only patches of the voice mail came through: “. . . can’t, Mick . . . sick every five minutes . . . can’t leave the house, even for . . . everything OK? Give me a ring when . . .”

Shit,” I said, before I could bite it back. Dina works in town, in a deli. I tried to calculate how many hours it would be before I got anywhere near town again, and what the odds were of her making it that long without someone switching on a radio.

Richie cocked his head, questioning. “Nothing,” I said. There was no point in ringing Dina—she hates phones—and there was no one else to ring. I took a fast breath and tamped it down at the back of my mind. “Let’s go. We’ve kept the Bureau boys waiting long enough.”

Richie nodded. I put my phone away, and we headed up to the top of the road to talk to the men in white.

The Super had come through for me: he had got the Tech Bureau to send out Larry Boyle, with a photographer and a scene mapper and a couple of others in tow. Boyle is a round, pancake-faced little oddball who gives you the impression that he has a room at home packed with disturbing magazines, neatly alphabetized, but he runs a scene impeccably and he’s the best we’ve got on blood spatter. I was going to need both of those.

“Well, about time,” he told me. He was already in his white hooded boiler suit, with his gloves and overshoes hanging ready from one hand. “Who’s this we’ve got here?”

“My new partner, Richie Curran. Richie, this is Larry Boyle from the Bureau. Be nice to him. We like him.”

“Stop that carry-on till we see if I’m any use to you,” Larry said, batting a hand at me. “What’s in there?”

“Father and two kids, dead. The mother’s gone to hospital. The kids were upstairs and it looks like suffocation, the adults were downstairs and it looks like stabbing. We’ve got enough blood spatter to keep you happy for weeks.”

“Oh, lovely.”

“Don’t say I never did anything for you. Apart from the usual, I’m looking for whatever you can tell me about the progression of events—who was attacked first, where, how much moving around they did afterwards, what the struggle might have looked like. As far as we could see, there’s no blood upstairs, which could be significant. Can you check for us?”

“No problem to me. Any more special requests?”

I said, “There was something very weird going on in that house, and I’m talking about well before last night. We’ve got a bunch of holes in the walls, and no clue who made them or why—if you can find us any indications, fingerprints or anything, we’d be very grateful. We’ve also got a load of baby monitors—at least two audio and five video, going by the chargers on the bedside table, but there could be more. We’re not sure what they were for yet, and we’ve only located three of the cameras: upstairs landing, sitting-room side table, kitchen floor. I’d like photos of all of them in situ. And we need to find the other two cameras, or however many there are. Same for the viewers: we’ve got two charging, two on the kitchen floor, so we’re short at least one.”

“Mmm,” Larry said, with relish. “In-teresting. Thank God for you, Scorcher. One more bedsit overdose and I think I’d have died of boredom.”

“I’m thinking we could have a drug connection here, actually. Nothing definite, but I’d love to know if there are drugs in that house, or if there used to be.”

“Oh, God, not drugs again. We’ll swab anything that looks promising, but I’ll be only delighted if it turns up negative.”

“I need their mobiles, I need any financial paperwork you run across, and there’s a computer in the kitchen that’ll need going over. And give the attic a good once-over for me, will you? We haven’t been up there, but whatever was weird, it involved the attic somehow. You’ll see what I mean.”

“Now that’s more like it,” Larry said happily. “I love a bit of weird. Shall we?”

I said, “That’s the injured woman’s sister, in the uniforms’ car. We’re about to go have a chat with her. Can you hold off another minute, until we’ve got her out of view? I don’t want her seeing you guys heading in, just in case she loses the plot.”

“I have that effect on women. Not a bother; we’ll hang on here till you give us the nod. Have fun, boys.” He waved us good-bye with his overshoes.

Richie said grimly, as we headed back down the road towards the sister, “He won’t be so cheerful once he’s been inside that house.”

I said, “He will, though, old son. He will.”

* * *

I don’t feel sorry for anyone I run across via work. Pity is fun, it lets you have a great wank about what a wonderful guy you are, but it does bugger-all good to the people you’re feeling sorry for. The second you start getting gooey about what they’ve been through, your eye comes off the ball. You get weak. Next thing you know, you can’t get out of bed in the morning because you can’t face going in to work, and I have trouble seeing how that does anyone any good. I put my time and energy into bringing answers, not hugs and hot chocolate.

If I was going to feel sorry for someone, though, it would be the vics’ families. Like I said to Richie, ninety-nine percent of the vics have nothing to complain about: they got exactly what they went looking for. The families, about the same percentage of the time, never asked for anything like this kind of hell. I don’t buy the idea that it’s all Mummy’s fault if Little Jimmy turns into a junkie smack dealer dumb enough to rip off his own supplier. Maybe she didn’t exactly help him self-actualize, but my childhood left me with a few issues too, and did I wind up taking two in the back of the head from a pissed-off drug lord? I spent a couple of years seeing a counselor, to make sure those issues weren’t going to hold me back, and meanwhile I got on with things, because I’m a grown man now and that means my life is up to me. If I turn up one morning with my face blown off, that’s all mine. And my family, for no good reason in the world, would be left picking out shrapnel.

I watch myself hardest of all around the families. Nothing can trip you up like compassion.

When she left home that morning, Fiona Rafferty had probably been a good-looking girl—I like them taller and a lot more groomed, myself, but there was a fine pair of legs in those faded jeans, and she had a good head of glossy hair, even if she hadn’t taken the trouble to straighten it or to color it something snazzier than plain mouse brown. Now, though, she was a mess. Her face was red and swollen and covered in great streaks of snot and mascara, her eyes had turned piggy from crying and she had been wiping her face on the sleeves of her red duffle coat. At least she had stopped screaming, for the moment anyway.

The uniform was starting to look frayed around the edges, too. I said, “We need a word with Ms. Rafferty. Why don’t you get onto your station, have them send someone out to take her to the hospital when we’re done?” He nodded and backed away. I heard the sigh of relief.

Richie went down on one knee beside the car. “Ms. Rafferty?” he said gently. The kid had bedside manner. Maybe a little too much: his knee was smack in a muddy rut and he was going to be spending the rest of the day looking like he had fallen over his own feet, but he didn’t seem to notice.

Fiona Rafferty’s head came up, slowly and wavering. She looked blind.

“I’m very sorry for your trouble.”

After a moment her chin tilted down, a tiny nod.

“Can we get you anything? Water?”

“I need to ring my mam. How do I— Oh, God, the babies, I can’t tell her—”

I said, “We’re getting someone to accompany you to the hospital. They’ll let your mother know to meet you there, and they’ll help you talk to her.”

She didn’t hear me; her mind had already flinched off that and ricocheted somewhere else. “Is Jenny OK? She’s going to be OK, right?”

“We’re hoping so. We’ll let you know as soon as we hear anything.”

“The ambulance, they wouldn’t let me go with her—I need to be with her, what if she, I need to—”

Richie said, “I know. The doctors are looking after her, though. They know what they’re at, those lads. You’d only get in their way. You don’t want that, no?”

Her head rocked from side to side: no.

“No. And anyway, we need you to help us out here. We’ll need to ask you some questions. Would you be able for that now, do you think?”

Her mouth fell open and she gasped for air. “No. Questions, Jesus, I can’t— I want to go home. I want my mam. Oh, God, I want—”

She was on the verge of breaking down again. I saw Richie start to draw back, hands going up reassuringly. I said smoothly, before he threw her away, “Ms. Rafferty, if you need to go home for a little while and come back to us later on, we won’t stop you. It’s your choice. But for every minute we lose, our chances of finding the person who did this go down another notch. Evidence gets destroyed, witnesses’ memories get blurry, maybe the killer gets farther away. I think you should know that, before you make your decision.”

Fiona’s eyes were starting to focus. “If I . . . You could lose him? If I come back to you later, he could be gone?”

I moved Richie out of her eye line with a hard grip on his shoulder and leaned against the car door. “That’s right. Like I said, it’s your choice, but personally I wouldn’t want to live with that.”

Her face contorted and for a moment I thought she was gone, but she bit down hard on the inside of her cheek and pulled it together. “OK. OK. I can . . . OK. I just . . . Can I just take two minutes and have a cigarette? Then I’ll answer whatever you want.”

“I think you’ve made the right decision there. You take your time, Ms. Rafferty. We’ll be here.”

She pulled herself out of the car—clumsily, like someone standing up for the first time after surgery—and staggered off across the road, between the skeleton houses. I kept an eye on her. She found a half-built wall to sit on and managed to light her smoke.

Her back was to us, more or less. I gave Larry the thumbs-up. He waved cheerfully and came trundling towards the house, pulling his gloves on, with the rest of the techs trailing after him.

Richie’s crappy jacket wasn’t made for country weather; he was bouncing up and down with his hands in his armpits, trying not to look frozen. I said, keeping my voice down, “You were about to send her home. Weren’t you?”

He whipped his head around, startled and wary. “I was, yeah. I thought—”

“You don’t think. Not about something like that. Whether to cut a witness loose is my call, not yours. Do you understand?”

“She looked like she was about to lose it.”

“So? That’s not a reason to let her leave, Detective Curran. That’s a reason to make her pull it together. You almost threw away an interview that we can’t afford to lose.”

“I was trying not to throw it away. Better get it in a few hours’ time than upset her so bad we might not get her back till tomorrow.”

“That’s not how it works. If you need a witness to talk, you find a way to make her do it, end of story. You don’t send her home to have a bloody cup of tea and a biscuit and come back when it suits her.”

“I figured I should give her the choice. She just lost—”

“Did you see me putting handcuffs on the girl? Give her all the choice in the world. Just make damn sure she chooses the way you want her to. Rule Number Three, and Four and Five and about a dozen more: you do not go with the flow in this job. You make the flow go with you. Do I make myself clear?”

After a moment Richie said, “Yeah. I’m sorry, Detective. Sir.”

Probably he hated me right then, but I could live with that. I don’t care if my rookies take home photos of me to throw darts at, as long as when the dust settles they haven’t done any damage, either to the case or to their careers. “It won’t happen again. Am I right?”

“No. I mean, yeah, you’re right: it won’t.”

“Good. Then let’s go get that interview.”

Richie tucked his chin into his jacket collar and eyed Fiona Rafferty doubtfully. She was sagging on her wall, head almost between her knees, cigarette hanging forgotten from one hand. At that distance she looked like something discarded, just a crumple of scarlet cloth tossed away in the rubble. “You think she can take it?”

“I haven’t a clue. Not our problem, as long as she has the nervous breakdown on her own time. Now come on.”

I headed across the road without looking back to see if he was coming. After a moment I heard his shoes crunching on dirt and gravel, hurrying up behind me.

Fiona was a little more together: the occasional shudder still slammed through her, but her hands had stopped shaking and she had wiped the mascara off her face, even if it was with her shirt front. I moved her into one of the half-built houses, out of the stiff wind and out of view of whatever Larry and his buddies did next, found her a nice pile of breeze blocks to sit on and gave her another cigarette—I don’t smoke, never have, but I keep a pack in my briefcase: smokers are like any other addicts, the best way to get them on side is with their own currency. I sat next to her on the breeze blocks; Richie found himself a windowsill at my shoulder, where he could watch and learn and take notes without making a big deal of it. It wasn’t the ideal interview situation, but I’ve worked in worse.

“Now,” I said, when I’d lit her cigarette. “Is there anything else we can get you? An extra jumper? A drink of water?”

Fiona was staring at the cigarette, jiggling it between her fingers and dragging it down in fast little gasps. Every muscle in her body was clenched; by the end of the day she was going to feel like she’d run a marathon. “I’m fine. Could we just get this over with? Please?”

“No problem, Ms. Rafferty. We understand. Why don’t you start by telling me about Jennifer?”

“Jenny. She doesn’t like Jennifer—she says it’s prissy or something . . . It’s always been Jenny. Since we were little.”

“Who’s older?”

“Her. I’m twenty-seven, she’s twenty-nine.”

I had figured Fiona for younger than that. Partly it was physical—she was on the short side, slight, with a pointed face and small irregular features under all the mess—but partly it was the gear, all that student-type scruffiness. Back when I was young, girls used to dress that way even after college, but nowadays they mostly put on a better show. Going by the house, I was willing to bet that Jenny had made more of an effort. I said, “What does she do?”

“She’s in PR. I mean, she was, up until Jack was born. Since then she stays home with the kids.”

“Fair play to her. She doesn’t miss working?”

Something that could have been a head-shake, except Fiona was so rigid it looked more like a spasm. “I don’t think so. She liked her job, but she’s not super-ambitious, or anything. She knew she wouldn’t be able to go back if they had another baby—two sets of child care, she’d have been working for, like, twenty euros a week—but they still went for Jack.”

“Any problems at work? Anyone she didn’t get on with?”

“No. The other girls in the company sounded like total bitches to me—all these snide comments if one of them didn’t top up her fake tan for a few days, and when Jenny was pregnant they were calling her Titanic and telling her she should be on a diet, for God’s sake—but Jenny didn’t think it was a big deal. She . . . Jenny doesn’t like putting her foot down, you know? She’d rather go with the flow. She always figures . . .” A hiss of breath between her teeth, like physical pain had hit her. “She always figures things work out OK in the end.”

“What about Patrick? How does he get on with people?” Keep them moving, keep them jumping from topic to topic, don’t give them time to look down. If they fall, you might not be able to get them on their feet again.

Her face jerked towards me, swollen gray-blue eyes wide. “Pat’s—Jesus, you don’t think he did this! Pat would never, he would never—”

“I know. Tell me—”

How do you know?”

“Ms. Rafferty,” I said, putting some stern into my voice. “Do you want to help us here?”

“Of course I—”

“Good. Then you need to focus on the questions we’re asking. The sooner we get some answers, the sooner you get some answers. OK?”

Fiona looked around wildly, like the room would vanish any second and she would wake up. It was bare concrete and sloppy mortar, with a couple of wooden beams propped against one wall like they were holding it up. A stack of fake-oak banisters covered in a thick coating of grime, flattened Styrofoam cups on the floor, a muddy blue sweatshirt balled up in one corner: it looked like an archaeological site frozen in the moment when the inhabitants had dropped everything and fled, from some natural disaster or some invading force. Fiona couldn’t see the place now, but it was going to be stamped on her mind for the rest of her life. This is one of the little extras murder throws at the families: long after you lose hold of the victim’s face or the last words she said to you, you remember every detail of the nightmare limbo where this thing came clawing into your life.

“Ms. Rafferty,” I said. “We can’t afford to waste time.”

“Yeah. I’m OK.” She jammed out her cigarette on the breeze blocks and stared at the butt like it had materialized in her hand out of nowhere. Richie leaned forward, holding out a foam cup, and said quietly, “Here.” Fiona nodded jerkily; she dropped in her cigarette and kept hold of the cup, gripping it with both hands.

I asked, “So what’s Patrick like?”

“He’s lovely.” Defiant flash of red-rimmed eyes. Under the wreckage was plenty of stubborn. “We’ve known him forever—we’re all from Monkstown, we always hung out with the same crowd, ever since we were kids. Him and Jenny, they’ve been together since they were sixteen.”

“What kind of relationship was it?”

“They were mad about each other. The rest of the gang, we thought it was a big deal if we went out with someone for more than a few weeks, but Pat and Jenny were . . .” Fiona caught a deep breath and jerked her head back, staring up through the empty stairwell and the haphazard beams at the gray sky. “They knew straightaway that this was it. It used to make them seem older; grown-up. The rest of us were just messing about, just playing, you know? Pat and Jenny were doing the real thing. Love.”

The real thing has got more people killed than practically anything else I can think of. “When did they get engaged?”

“When they were nineteen. Valentine’s Day.”

“That’s pretty young, these days. What did your parents think?”

“They were delighted! They love Pat too. They just said to wait till they finished college, and Pat and Jenny were fine with that. They got married when they were twenty-two. Jenny said there wasn’t any point in putting it off any longer, it wasn’t like they were going to change their minds.”

“And how did it work out?”

“It’s worked out great. Pat, the way he treats Jenny—he still lights up when he finds out there’s something she wants, because he can’t wait to get it for her. Back when I was a teenager, I used to pray that I’d meet someone who’d love me the way Pat loves Jenny. OK?”

The present tense takes a long time to wear off. My mother died way back when I was a teenager, but every now and then Dina still talks about what perfume Mummy wears or what kind of ice cream she likes. It drives Geri crazy. I asked, not too skeptically, “No arguments? In thirteen years?”

“That’s not what I said. Everyone has arguments. But theirs aren’t a big deal.”

“What do they argue about?”

Fiona was looking at me now, a thin layer of wariness solidifying over all the rest. “Same as any couple. Stuff like, back when we were kids, Pat would get upset if some other guy fancied Jenny. Or when they were saving up towards the house, Pat wanted to go on holiday and Jenny thought everything should go into the savings. They always sort it out, though. Like I said, no big deal.”

Money: the only thing that kills more people than love. “What does Patrick do?”

“He’s in recruitment—was. He worked for Nolan and Roberts—they find people for financial services. They let him go in February.”

“Any particular reason?”

Fiona’s shoulders were starting to tense up again. “It wasn’t anything he did. They let a few people go at the same time, not just him. Financial services companies aren’t exactly recruiting these days, you know? The recession . . . ”

“Did he have any problems at work? Any bad blood when he left?”

No! You keep trying to make it sound like, like Pat and Jenny have all these enemies everywhere, they’re fighting all the time— They’re not like that.”

She was reared back away from me, the cup thrust out in two clenched hands like a shield. I said soothingly, “Now, that’s the kind of information I need. I don’t know Pat and Jenny; I’m just trying to get an idea of them.”

“They’re lovely. People like them. They love each other. They love the kids. OK? Does that give you enough of an idea?”

Actually that gave me shag-all idea about anything, but it was obviously the best I was going to get. “Absolutely,” I said. “I appreciate it. Does Patrick’s family still live in Monkstown?”

“His parents are dead—his dad was back when we were kids, his mum was a few years ago. He’s got a little brother, Ian, he’s in Chicago— Ring Ian. Ask him about Pat and Jenny. He’ll tell you the exact same thing.”

“I’m sure he will. Did Pat and Jenny keep any valuables in the house? Cash, jewelry, anything like that?”

Fiona’s shoulders came down again, a little, while she considered that. “Jenny’s engagement ring—Pat paid a couple of grand for that—and this emerald ring that our granny left to Emma. And Pat has a computer; it’s pretty new, he got it with his redundancy money, it might still be worth something . . . All that stuff, is it still there? Or did it get taken?”

“We’ll check. That’s it for valuables?”

“They don’t have anything valuable. They used to have this big SUV, but they had to give it back; they couldn’t make the repayments. And I guess there’s Jenny’s clothes—she used to spend a load on them, till Pat lost his job—but who’s going to do this for a bunch of secondhand clothes?”

There are people who would do it for a lot less, but I didn’t get the feeling that was what we were looking at. “When did you last see them?”

She had to think about that. “I met up with Jenny in Dublin, for coffee. This summer, maybe three or four months ago? I haven’t seen Pat in ages—April, I guess. God, I don’t know how it got to be that long—”

“What about the children?”

“April, the same as Pat. I was out here for Emma’s birthday—she was turning six.”

“Did you notice anything out of the ordinary?”

“Like what?”

Head up, chin out, straight onto the defensive. I said, “Anything at all. A guest who seemed out of place, maybe. A conversation that sounded odd.”

“No. Nothing was odd. There were a bunch of kids from Emma’s class, and Jenny got a bouncy castle— Oh, God, Emma and Jack . . . Both of them, are you sure they’re both . . .? Could one of them not be just hurt, just, just . . . ”

“Ms. Rafferty,” I said, in my best gentle-but-firm, “I’m pretty sure they’re not just hurt. We’ll let you know straightaway if anything changes, but right now I need you to stay with me. Every second counts, remember?”

Fiona pressed a hand over her mouth and swallowed hard. “Yeah.”

“Well done.” I held out another cigarette and clicked the lighter. “When did you last speak to Jenny?”

“Yesterday morning.” She didn’t have to think about that one. “I ring her every morning at half past eight, once I’m in work. We have our coffee and check in, just for a few minutes. Like a start to the day, you know?”

“It sounds nice. How was she yesterday?”

Normal! She was completely normal! There was nothing, I swear to God, I’ve gone over it in my head and there was nothing—”

“I’m sure there wasn’t,” I said soothingly. “What did you talk about?”

“Just stuff, I don’t know. One of my flatmates plays bass, her band has a gig coming up, I told Jenny about that; she was telling me how she was looking online for a toy stegosaurus, because Jack had brought home some friend from preschool on Friday and they went hunting a stegosaurus in the garden . . . She sounded fine. Totally fine.”

“Would she have told you if there was anything wrong?”

“Yeah, I think so. She would. I’m sure she would.”

Which didn’t sound sure. I asked, “Are you two close?”

Fiona said, “There’s just the two of us.” She heard herself and realized that wasn’t an answer. “Yeah. We’re close. I mean, we were closer when we were younger, teenagers—we sort of went in different directions after that. And it’s not as easy now that Jenny’s out here.”

“How long has that been?”

“They bought the house like three years ago.” 2006: the height of the boom. Whatever they had paid, these days the gaff was worth half of that. “There was nothing here then, though, just fields; they bought off the plans. I thought they were mental, but Jenny was over the moon, she was so excited—their own place . . .” Fiona’s mouth contorted, but she got it back together. “They moved out here maybe a year later. As soon as the house was finished.”

I asked, “And what about you? Where do you live?”

“In Dublin. Ranelagh.”

“You said you share a flat?”

“Yeah. Me and two other girls.”

“What do you do?”

“I’m a photographer. I’m trying to get an exhibition together, but meanwhile I work at Studio Pierre—you know, Pierre, he was on that TV show about elite Irish weddings? I mostly do the baby shoots, or if Keith—Pierre—gets two weddings on the same day, I do one of them.”

“Were you doing a baby shoot this morning?”

She had to work to remember, it was so far away. “No. I was going through shots, these shots from last week—the mother’s coming in today to pick the album.”

“What time did you leave?”

“Like quarter past nine. One of the guys said he’d sort out the album for me.”

“Where’s Studio Pierre?”

“By Phoenix Park.”

An hour from Broken Harbor, minimum, in morning traffic and in that shitty little car. I asked, “Had you been worried about Jenny?”

That electric-shock head-shake.

“Are you sure? That’s an awful lot of hassle to go to because someone doesn’t answer her phone.”

A tense shrug. Fiona balanced the foam cup carefully beside her, tapped ash. “I wanted to make sure she was OK.”

“Why wouldn’t she have been?”

Because. We always talk. Every day, for years. And I was right, wasn’t I? She wasn’t OK.”

Her chin wobbled. I leaned in close to give her a tissue, didn’t lean back. “Ms. Rafferty,” I said. “We both know there was more to it than that. You don’t ditch work, possibly annoy a client, and drive for an hour, just because your sister’s out of touch for forty-five minutes. You could have assumed that she’d gone to bed with a migraine, or that she’d lost her phone, or that the kids had come down with the flu, or any one of several hundred things, all of them a lot more likely than this. Instead, you jumped straight to the conclusion that something was wrong. You need to tell me why.”

Fiona bit down on her bottom lip. The air stank of cigarette smoke and singed wool—she had dropped hot ash on her coat, somewhere in there—and there was a dank, bitter smell coming off her, spreading on her breath and seeping out of her pores. Interesting fact from the front lines: raw grief smells like ripped leaves and splintered branches, a jagged green shriek.

“It wasn’t anything,” she said, finally. “It was ages ago—months. I’d practically forgotten about it, till . . .”

I waited.

“It was just . . . She rang me one evening. She said someone had been in the house.”

I felt Richie snap to attention at my shoulder, like a terrier ready to dash off after his stick. “Did she report this?” I asked.

Fiona rubbed out her cigarette and dropped the butt into the cup. “It wasn’t like that. There was nothing to report. There wasn’t, like, a window broken or the lock smashed or whatever, and there wasn’t anything taken.”

“Then what made her think someone had been in the house?”

The shrug again, even tenser this time. Her head had gone down. “She just thought. I don’t know.”

I said, letting the firm start to edge out the gentle, “This could be important, Ms. Rafferty. What did she say, exactly?”

Fiona took a deep, shuddering breath and pushed hair behind her ear. “OK,” she said. “OK. OK. So Jenny rings me, right, and she’s like, ‘Did you make a copy of our keys?’ I had their keys for about two seconds last winter, Jenny and Pat took the kids to the Canaries for a week and they wanted to know someone could get in if there was a fire or whatever. So I say no, course not—”

“Did you?” Richie asked. “Make a copy?” He pulled it off—he managed to sound just plain interested, not the slightest bit accusing. Which was nice: it meant I wouldn’t have to give him shit, or at least not too big a helping of it, for talking out of turn.

“No! Why would I?”

She had shot upright. Richie shrugged, gave her a deprecating little smile. “Just checking. I’ve got to ask, you know?”

Fiona slumped back. “Yeah. I guess.”

“And no one else could have made copies, that week? You didn’t leave the keys where your flatmates could have taken them, or someone at work—nothing like that? Like I said, we have to ask.”

“I had them on my key ring. They weren’t in a safe or anything—when I’m in work I have my keys in my bag, and when I’m home they’re on a hook in the kitchen. But it’s not like anyone would’ve known what they were, even if they cared. I don’t think I even told anyone that I had them.”

Her flatmates and her workmates were going to be having in-depth chats all the same, not to mention background checks. “Let’s get back to the phone conversation,” I said. “You told Jenny you hadn’t copied her keys . . .”

“Yeah. Jenny says, ‘Well, someone’s got them, and you’re the only person we gave them to.’ It takes me like half an hour to convince her I don’t have a clue what she’s on about, so she’ll even tell me what’s the story. Finally she says her and the kids were out for the afternoon, at the shops or somewhere, and when she got back someone had been through the house.” Fiona had started picking the tissue to shreds, white wisps floating down on the red of her coat. She had small hands, slim-fingered, with bitten nails. “I ask her how she knows, and at first she won’t say, but finally I get it out of her: the curtains are hooked back all wrong, and she’s missing half a packet of ham and the pen she keeps by the fridge for making shopping lists. I’m like, ‘You have got to be joking,’ and she nearly hangs up on me. So I talk her down, and once she stops giving me hassle, she sounds really freaked out, you know? Really scared. And Jenny isn’t a wimp.”

This was one of the reasons I had come down hard on Richie for trying to postpone this interview. If you get someone talking right after his world ends, there’s a decent chance he won’t be able to stop. Wait till the next day and he’ll already be starting to rebuild his pulverized defenses—people work fast, when the stakes are that high—but catch him straight after the mushroom cloud unfurls and he’ll spill anything from his tastes in porn to his secret nickname for the boss. “Natural enough,” I said. “That’d be pretty unsettling.”

“It was ham slices and a pen! If her jewelry was gone, or half her underwear or something, then yeah, sure, lose the head. But this stuff . . . I said to her, ‘OK, let’s say somehow someone for some weird reason got in, he wasn’t exactly Hannibal Lecter, was he?’”

I asked, before it could hit her what she had just said, “What did Jenny think of that?”

“She got furious with me again. She said the big deal wasn’t what he’d actually done; it was all the stuff she couldn’t be sure about. Like if he’d been in the kids’ rooms, gone through their stuff—Jenny said if they could afford it she’d throw away everything the kids had, start over, just in case. What he’d touched—she said everything looked like it was out of place all of a sudden, just an inch, or like it was smudged. How he got in. Why he got in—that was really getting to her. She kept saying, ‘Why us? What did he want off us? Do we look like a target? What?’”

Fiona shivered, a sudden jerk that almost doubled her over. I said easily, “It’s a good question. They have an alarm system; do you know if it was set that day?”

She shook her head. “I asked. Jenny said no. She never used to bother, not during the day—I think they’d set it at night, when they went to bed, but that was because the local kids throw parties and stuff in the empty houses, they can get pretty out of control sometimes. Jenny said the estate was basically dead during the day—well, you can see for yourselves—so she hadn’t been bothering. But she said she was going to start. She said, ‘If you’ve got those keys, you’d better not use them. I’m changing the alarm code now and after this it stays on, day and night, end of story.’ Like I said, she sounded really scared.”

But when the uniforms had broken down the door and the four of us had gone tramping all over Jenny’s precious house, the alarm had been off. The obvious explanation was that, if anyone had come in from outside, the Spains had opened the door themselves; that Jenny, scared as she was, hadn’t been scared of this person. “Did she change the locks?”

“I asked that, too—was she going to. She went back and forth, but in the end she said no, probably not, it’d be a couple of hundred quid and the budget couldn’t stretch to that. The alarm would be enough. She said, ‘I don’t even mind that much if he tries to get in again. I’d almost rather he did. At least then we’d know.’ I told you: she’s not a wimp.”

“Where had Pat been that day? Was this before he lost his job?”

“No, after. He’d gone down to Athlone, for a job interview—this was back when him and Jenny still had the two cars.”

“What did he think about the possible break-in?”

“I don’t know. She never said. I thought . . . to be honest, I thought she hadn’t told him. She was keeping her voice right down, on the phone—that could’ve been just because the kids were asleep, but in a house that size? And she kept saying ‘I’—‘I’m changing the alarm code, I couldn’t fit that in the budget, I’ll sort the guy if I get him.’ Not ‘we.’”

And there it was again: the little thing out of place, the gift I had told Richie to keep his eyes peeled for. “Why wouldn’t she tell Pat? Shouldn’t that be the first thing she did, if she thought they’d had intruders?”

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Interviews & Essays

Ghost Estates — Ireland after the Bubble: Barnes & Noble Review Interview with Tana French

The first time I interviewed Tana French, two weeks before the U.S. release of her debut novel, In the Woods, she was careful to clarify that, although she did have a background as an actress, she was not to be confused with Tana French, the actress who played a nude model chased by a gorilla in the 1962 B-movie The Wild and the Naked (Tana French, the author, was born in 1973). The other Tana French wasn't exactly world famous, but back in the spring of 2007, she was the highest-ranked Tana French in U.S. Google results.

Five years later that B-movie actress is likely explaining to someone that she is not the Dublin-based author of four acclaimed, psychologically incisive literary mysteries. ("Who knows?" says French. "Maybe she's saying, 'Hang, on. I have more sense than to do that for a living.' ") Although Tana French, the author, spent a decade working as a theater actress before taking a break to write her first novel, the novels have long since won out as her day job and become bestsellers. All four take place among the fictional detectives of the Dublin Murder Squad, and technically they are all police procedurals: As she says, "Somebody gets killed; somebody else finds out who did it; and along the way, they use the tools available."

But while French writes great murder mysteries (her very first novel won the Edgar Award), her novels hold up equally well as literary fiction and are regularly recognized as such by critics. Part of her strength in constructing believable characters comes, no doubt, from her theatrical training: she has an impeccable and uncanny ear for dialogue; delves deeply into each character's motivation; and choreographs intricate scenes of psychological tension, personal drama, hilarity, and grief. When it comes to creating an original, authentic narrative voice, she's easily one of the most accomplished writers working today.

With each novel, those voices get more astonishing. Rob, who narrated In the Woods, and his partner, Cassie, who narrated the second book, The Likeness, may well have fit right in with French and her scraping-by actor friends at the Dublin pubs where she spent her twenties and early thirties. Each, however, spoke in a voice entirely distinct from the others. (French likes to take a secondary character from one novel and make him or her the narrator of the next.) For her third novel, Faithful Place, she created the character of Frank Mackey, a loner undercover divorced detective in his forties who escapes his dead- end working-class block and manipulative family, only to come back when he realizes his first girlfriend was murdered. That novel obsessively depicted the subtlest markers of class and character, from accents to TVs and trainers.

French's Broken Harbor takes an even bigger risk: Her narrator, Scorcher Kennedy, is the guy who spent the entirety of Faithful Place being mocked by Frank Mackey for being uptight, unimaginative, and — worst of all for any character one with whom one plans to spend several hundred pages — boring.

But in French's hands, even the boring guy gets his turn. Says Scorcher: "Only teenagers think boring is bad. Adults, grown men and women who've been around the block a few times know that boring is a gift straight from God." The case he's on is a family homicide — father and two kids killed; mother barely hanging on — in a suburban estate built during the boom years but now, post mortgage crisis, rapidly sliding into a scary no-man's-land or "ghost estate," to use French's evocative term. Like Scorcher himself, Pat and Jenny Spain were the kind of people who "want what they are supposed to want," who do things in the right order and the right way. The novel ends up being a timely, empathetic deeply philosophical morality play on wealth, art, conformity, economics and class; fiction as instructional and probing as any essay. I spoke to Tana French from her home in Dublin. —Amy Benfer

The Barnes & Noble Review: Your narrator is Detective Scorcher Kennedy, who spent all of your last novel, Faithful Place, portrayed through the eyes of undercover cop Frank Mackey as an insufferable prig: He spoke entirely in platitudes, he was loathsome, competitive, and small-minded. When I first heard the book was told from his perspective, I found it entirely perverse of you to choose this guy. But then you managed to pull it off. He is that man, and yet you somehow managed to make him somehow sympathetic.

Tana French: Thank, God. I was terrified. In Faithful Place, he's this pompous, up-his-own-arse little git, but that's partly because that's what Frank needs to see. Frank just found out that his first love was murdered. He's looking for an enemy to fight against. Until he finds the person who killed her, Scorcher will do just fine.

I had originally planned to make Stephen Moran, the young upcoming sidekick from Faithful Place, the narrator. But then the more I thought about these ghost estates, the more I realized that the people who are stuck on these ghost estates are the people who followed the rules, and the rules let them down. I thought, Well, that doesn't gel with Stephen. Trying to do your best, to follow the rules, to be what you are supposed to be: That's Scorcher, not Stephen. Even his language, as you said, is based on platitudes. It's structured entirely around the way you are supposed to say things. And so obviously this is his book. And I thought, Oh God. I don't know if I want to spend two years in his head.

BNR: When I used to write on the Nancy Drew mysteries, I would joke about how in those novels, class was often presented as a clue. For example, the poor girl would show up at the fanciest dress shop in town, which Nancy cleverly discerned she couldn't possibly afford, or the disheveled housekeeper did it, or the villains were swarthy in some vaguely ethnic way. It was this very clumsy — and often bigoted — take on class. But your last two novels — Faithful Place and now in Broken Harbor — the mysteries themselves seem to rely on a very sophisticated understanding the tics and prejudices and blind spots that go on in every social class.

TF: Ireland is such a young society. The British were the ruling class up until they left about a hundred years ago, and we've been trying to work out what our class hierarchy is ever since. There's a much more secure sense of identity in the working classes. Whereas the middle classes and the upper classes we've got — I'm not sure we've got any — are struggling for identity, because they didn't really exist in the same way until relatively recently. People are within a few generations of being broke and working-class, so they still kind of struggle for definition.

I think you see that especially in Broken Harbor. You see people who aren't coming from that very securely rooted kind of place where they know who they are and everyone in sight knows who you are and has known who you are for generations. During the boom, people suddenly had money, and that was taken as being the definer of class in a very definite, inarguable way. Therefore, because you were in such need of defining yourself, of finding your place within the social hierarchy, you had to buy as many status indicators as you possibly can. OK, I know where I am; you know where I am. I'm driving this particular SUV, therefore I have this particular identity.

BNR: So that brings us straight to the Spains, members of the striver class, who are found murdered with their two children in their pretty suburban home. It's both funny and tragic that, this novel begins in a falling-down subdivision — a place that looks great on the outside but is literally hollow on the inside and will not stand the test of time.

TF: I don't think you get any more symbolic than these places. I don't know if it happened the same way in America, these "ghost estates." During the boom, because of this horrible web of corruption between government and property developers, the developers started building stuff that frankly nobody needed or wanted. Our generation, the thirty-somethings, were the ones who were being told, Look, this is your only chance to get on the property ladder. Property values are skyrocketing. You buy something off the plans, in the middle of nowhere, with absolutely no infrastructure. Well, of course you don't want it. But within five years, it will have doubled in value, and you'll be able to sell it off and buy something in town that you do want, and everything will be wonderful forever.

And then the crash came and the property developers just left. A huge chunk of our generation are stranded there and they can't get out now. How much more symbolic can it get? This thing that was presented as this gateway to a dream is now just disintegrating around them. You get kids joyriding and squatters. They don't have street lights, they don't have proper sewage removal, they're just there in the middle of the chaos that they thought they were avoiding forever.

BNR: Which is ironic, because that's where people moved to have a "safe family home" away from the perceived danger and lawlessness of the cities.

TF: Exactly. That's the whole irony. The ones who moved there are the ones who really wanted to do the right thing. They really wanted to have their nice family life, your picket fence, your 2.4 children, and a Labrador. It's all turning inside out, basically. And Richie [Scorcher's partner] ended up being all right, because he's from an inner-city neighborhood. He actually does know who he is. Whereas the Spains have been uprooted from who and what they are and been stripped bare in the middle of nothing, with no rootedness left.

BNR: There's a certain justice to that. There is an odd sort of inversion between this book and Faithful Place. In that book, when Frank gets out of his working-class neighborhood, he seems to become more confident, and more himself. But what you are saying about Richie, then, is nearly the opposite: Richie is coming from the kind of neighborhood that Frank left behind, yet coming from that neighborhood is what makes someone like Richie more substantial than someone like Scorcher and the Spains, strivers who are always afraid that with one wrong move, their identity can be taken away at any time.

TF: Frank, much as he thought that escaping was his only option, is still defined very much by that neighborhood he got away from. As far as you go, you still carry it with you. You can cut yourself off from it, but you still have the shape of it printed on you. That defines him even as he's fighting against it. But Richie doesn't have that conflicted thing that Frank has. He's got no beef with being working-class and from being from the neighborhood he is from. And the implication is that he's from a worse one than Frank: Rather than being from a working-class neighborhood, he's from a non-working-class neighborhood. Scorcher doesn't trust his own mind and his own instincts to lead him right. He needs guidance from the outside. He needs the rules, he needs a manual. He believes that his own mind is unreliable. Whereas Richie, again, for better or worse, considers his own mind to be his most reliable guidance.

BNR: One of the things that is so exhilarating to see in Broken Harbor is that the return of the intellectual and emotional interplay between squad partners that we haven't seen since Cassie and Rob in In the Woods. In this case, Richie and Scorcher have a cross-age and cross-class romance, and there is not the possibility of them literally romancing each other as Cassie and Rob may have done. But there's many moments when Scorcher gets as swoony as a girl picking out her wedding dress, imagining the two of them, five, ten, fifteen years down the road. It's very funny, given that this is a guy who doesn't want to want anything, and when he does, he wants something very specific: Even women are supposed to look exactly like what women are supposed to look like. He doesn't do quirky. And yet here's Richie, this guy who is from the wrong neighborhood, the wrong accent, the wrong class, and you just stand back and watch as Scorcher falls in love with him....

TF: That's exactly what I was thinking about it as. He's thinking, Well, maybe we can have a future together! He's somehow gone slightly infatuated on a professional level. I do think there's something slightly — funny? pathetic? — about him fastening on to this thing. I think that's what happens when you spend so much time trying to maintain control. You just can't forever be like that "I am in total control of my life! I am an android! I am a bionic man!" You're going to need a hand sooner or later. And I think that's where Scorcher's head is at with Richie. In some ways, he would be the perfect partner for him. They have very differing takes on things and they balance each other very well.

BNR: You used to hear the phrase "lace curtain Irish." How would that compare to the new "young professional couple in the subdivisions Irish"? It seems like both are accused of putting on airs, or pretending to be better than others.

TF: Both are defined by the idea that you are what others see. The "lace curtain Irish" would say, It doesn't matter if inside everyone is drunk and chaotic and throwing stuff and you don't have a penny to your name, as long as the lace curtains are nice and clean and you go to Sunday Mass and everyone outside the house sees everything in place. That's been a part of Irish society forever.

But the value system on which it's based has changed. "Lace curtain Irish" to me implies that they are Catholic. Going to Mass would be a large part of it, and everything being clean and tidy. Whereas the striver generation like the Spains, the value system is less on Catholicism and more on money and status symbols. So it's not whether you show up for Mass, it's where you went on holiday for your honeymoon. That's become the equivalent indicator of virtue. It's switched from showing up at Mass and having the finest Communion dress on the block to going on holiday and having the right car. But it's very much the same thing. It's that reliance on symbol and surface as indicators of moral value.

BNR: In this book, you contrast between the people who define their moral worth by having the right things and doing things in the right order — Scorcher, the Spains — and with characters like Jenny Spain's sister, Fiona, a photographer, who wants something a little more complicated. It must make it so much easier to be goal-oriented and thus, to "win," if you know what the hell the goal is. But as the novel makes it clear, it also makes it so much easier to know when you lose.

TF: These are people who, again, have relied on indicators outside themselves. When those indicators all go haywire, they don't have an inner map, because they never had to build one. The Spains did everything right. They followed the formula. They stuck to the manual word for word. And all of the sudden, everything has just fallen all around them.

Whereas someone like Fiona has never had the luxury of believing that she is following a path that is simple and clearly illuminated. When a recession turns up, and everything goes upside down for her, and she's not getting photography work, she has inner touchstones. She can say, OK, I didn't get that exhibition or I didn't get that gig, but I know, because I've spent ages developing my own eye for this, that my recent work is better than my work from two years ago, therefore I know that I am moving somewhere.

It's much easier in good times to want you are supposed to want. I think that's really what defines life: Whether you want what you're supposed to want, or whether you want things you are not supposed to want. In good times, it's much, much easier if you want what you are supposed to want, but in bad times, I really don't think it is.

BNR: So for people like the Spains, to whom material wealth represents morality, even religion, to be unable to afford their previous lifestyle — say, losing their SUV — represents a moral failure.

TF: Yes. If you can't maintain your financial lifestyle, then you have somehow become tainted, brought down on the moral ranking. I've got this theory that human beings are innately religious; we have a belief system. It doesn't have to be a theist form, necessarily. But we need a belief system, some framework on which to hang our behavior. The influence of the Catholic Church eroded very quickly in Ireland, which I don't think is a bad thing. But it left a vacuum. And people filled that vacuum with a money-based belief system. Money and health. It's not just a health choice: it's somehow a more morally worthy choice to not smoke, not drink, to eat your organic vegetables.

BNR: It's not giving much of the plot away to say that when a family is killed at home, the first suspect is often the father. From early on, readers are asked to consider the possibility that Pat Spain couldn't handle the financial and emotional chaos of being out of work and offed his family. I wrote a piece on these so-called Father Knows Best killings about a decade ago [Note: For readers interested in these kind of killings, Julie Salomon's Facing the Wind is a fascinating nonfiction look at one such case]. As I remember, people who believe to their core that patriarchy and the traditional family are the only way to live can come to believe that their family is actually better off dead than going on living in reduced circumstances.

TF: I've read up on these killings, too, these family annihilator killings. And in these cases, the father is someone who is very used to being in control of everything. When that control goes, he feels like the threat of chaos is so enormous that it's actually worse than death. Whatever it is — financial, psychological chaos - - is so much worse that he just prevents it by killing the whole family.

BNR: In their own head, it's seen as a mercy killing. Because who would want to live without the security of a traditional, affluent family?

TF: Oh yes. Totally.

BNR: So the family is God?

TF: Yes, it's very much that. Everything is spiraling toward hell and the best thing you can do is just wipe the slate clean.

BNR: Recently, the American press has been floating the idea that many people with money have less empathy; that money makes people mean. That's also an idea that you introduce in the book. At one point, Fiona, the artist, talks about how bitchy Jenny and her publicist friends are to each other — the kind of mean girls that will mock each other for going a few days without topping up their fake tans. When things go down for the Spains, they are hunkered down in this house that literally has glass walls where the neighbors can witness their decline. According to their own belief system, their financial decline is also a moral decline, and they expect to be mocked and judged for it. Do you think there's something to this idea that money makes you mean?

TF: During the boom years, you did get people being very vicious toward each other for not having quite the right status symbols. Again, my friends have always been a whole bunch of broke actors, where you never knew if you would have enough money to pay the phone bill and buy milk. During the boom years, that made us feel a little bit — alienated is probably too strong a word, but marginalized. There would be all these news articles about how everybody is doing so wonderfully, the nation is doing so brilliantly, and here's all of us going, "We're not. When you talk about the nation, when you talk about the economy, you clearly don't mean us. We're not mentioned. We don't have any role in the national narrative anymore." It was a very strange time.

BNR: And yet while your earliest narrators — Rob from Into the Woods and Cassie from The Likeness — seemed like they would have fit right in with you and your broke actor friends, I find it interesting and admirable that you managed to create sympathetic characters out of the kind of people with whom you wouldn't seem to have much in common.

TF: These people, the equivalent of the Spains, were the kind of people who weren't particularly nice to me and my friends during the boom. They explicitly and by implication looked down on us and thought that we were worth less than them because we had less money. But I thought, I can't write these characters with the author's judgment being implied. I can't be going, "Who do you think you are?" or "I think this is shallow" or "I think this is superficial" or "You've got no morals." All of that is irrelevant because for these characters, that's not who they are. No one thinks they are shallow, superficial people with no moral center. They are doing these things for excellent reasons. It's my job to get to that reason and give that reason with all the power and punch I could.

The same applies to Scorcher. In his own mind, Scorcher is desperately killing himself to do things right. I thought, if I can get that, that he's not just this pompous git, that he has a reason for being what he is, and he puts passion into it, just as the Spains put passion into being who they are. Even though it may look as if they are just this wad of fake tan and Hugo Boss, they are putting the same passion and determination into that that Fiona is putting into the struggle of living on small wages and desperately trying to get a photography exhibition up and running. It just comes out differently.

If you are going to be on the artist's side of the fence, your job is to place a bit token in the jar of empathy. You don't get to abdicate that purely because you are dealing with people who in real life you find completely uninteresting. If I was going to write this book — and the idea was there; it's not like I had another one — it's my job to make sure that these characters had the space to make their argument. And I figured, if they did, if I did that with the respect that it deserves, that with any luck — please God and touch wood! — Scorcher would not turn out to be an obnoxious person to spend several hundred pages with and the Spains would not turn out to be unsympathetic victims. I have to say I have no clue if it worked.

BNR: Not unlike Fiona, you spent all your twenties and your early thirties just scraping by working as in the theater, then writing your first novel. And yet, you are now the bestselling author of four novels; one does assume that you have had a larger measure of critical and material success than you probably planned for. Do you have any reflection on how it feels to stumble into material success through artistic success, especially having just written a book about people who strive for material success and are more or less ruined by it?

TF: I think it would have been very different if it had happened ten years earlier. I was thirty-three when all this started happening. By then, you have a very clear idea of who you are. It's not like at twenty-three I had written something that became very successful. I think that would have changed my perception of who I was and where I fit into this world. I think I'm always going to think of myself as the same broke actor bouncing along from week to week and hoping there's enough for a few pints. Because even though it's not true anymore, that's who I was during all the time your identity gets shaped. I'm never going to think of myself as "Bestselling writer Tana French," because by the time that happened, my sense of identity was already very much shaped.

BNR: But of course, you once thought acting was your art. Does that transformation feel natural now? Do you miss acting? Are you going to go back to acting in your forties?

TF: I do miss it. It's so social. I'm so used to the idea that you all work together all day, and then you all go to the pub together. And yes, I really miss the stage. I think if I had been a film actor, it might have been quite easy to go to an agent and say, "Look, I can't do a big gig, but can you set me up for something that's maybe five days' work?" But in the theater, there's no such thing. There's maybe four weeks rehearsal, then four weeks on the show. That's two months out of a writing schedule. My publishers get to poke me with sticks if I do something like that.

I love writing. I feel ridiculously lucky that this is what I get to do all day. I love acting, too, but this is the one that was working out. This is the one that not only pays the mortgage but also lets me work every day. With acting, you have to depend on somebody else to decide if you are allowed to work. You can spend weeks and months when you are not acting at all. With this, not only, my God, do I get paid to work every day, but even when I was not, I could still work every day. No one could stop me. I've got a pen, I've got a notebook, I'm good to go. That's a marvelous thing.

July 24, 2012

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Reading Group Guide

INTRODUCTION

Pat Spain and his wife, Jenny, always believed that, as long as they played by the rules, things would work out all right. It was with this faith that they fell in love, had their two beautiful children, and took out a 110 percent mortgage to buy their first home—a house in a new, lavishly advertised development on the Irish seacoast in an area freshly re–christened “Brianstown” but once known to all as Broken Harbor. But things do not work out all right. As recession chokes the country, the developers fail to finish the neighborhood, property values plummet, and Pat loses his job.

Then, on an autumn morning, Jenny’s sister discovers the couple in a pool of blood. Pat is dead, and Jenny is nearly so. Upstairs in the children’s rooms awaits a still more crushing horror.

Enter Mick “Scorcher” Kennedy, ace Murder Squad detective. Kennedy is quick to realize that the Spain case is a “dream case” and that he is just the man for it. If all goes well, the case will cement his position as top man in his department.

But, as with the Spains themselves, very little goes well. Scorcher is partnered with Richie Curran, a rookie detective with a lot to learn. At the crime scene, nothing adds up. The Spains were so fastidious that they lined up their shampoo bottles, yet the police discover gaping holes bashed in the interior walls of their house. There are no signs of forced entry, which points to an inside job, but everyone swears that Pat and Jenny were the world’s most loving couple.

Then a break comes: a search of a nearby house reveals that a squatter has been keeping the Spains under surveillance. But when the stalker is captured, his story yields only more mysteries. As Jenny fights for life in intensive care, Scorcher hears the clock ticking. He can hold the suspect for only a few days without charging him, and still no answers come.

At the same time, an even deeper enigma is playing itself out in Scorcher’s head. Broken Harbor is, for him, a place laden with nightmarish memories. As he descends further into the tragedy of the Spain family, his investigation drags him ever deeper into his own terrors. And there, making everything worse, is his mentally unstable sister, Dina, who is the last person to let sleeping dogs lie.

Brooding in its reflections on the current Irish economy, keenly insightful into hearts and minds of its characters, Broken Harbor is a finely wrought police procedural, but it is ever so much more. Unflinchingly, it narrates the struggle of a good but tortured man to push back a rising tide of wildness and outrage, both in society and in his own battered spirit. Above all else, Scorcher depends on order and control to keep his world from spinning into chaos. But in Broken Harbor madness lurks around every corner. Just beyond the edge of civility and tidy appearances, a beast crouches, cunning, pitiless, and always ready to strike.

ABOUT TANA FRENCH

Born in Vermont, Tana French had a peripatetic childhood that took her to Ireland, Florence, and Rome, as well as the African nation of Malawi. A resident of Dublin since 1990, she has a degree in Drama and English from Trinity College. Prior to her writing career, she was best known as an actor in a wide variety of theatrical productions in Dublin. Her debut novel, In the Woods, was honored with the Edgar, Barry, Macavity, and Anthony awards. She lives in Dublin with her husband and daughter. Broken Harbor is her fourth book.

A CONVERSATION WITH TANA FRENCH

Q. Your books resonate beyond their particular plots and the characters; your fiction comments on the distressed conditions that currently exist in Ireland. How does Broken Harbor express concerns about your adopted country?

I think if you write mystery, you’re going to end up, at some level, focusing on your society’s priorities and tensions and deepest fears. You’re writing about murder, the biggest fear of all—and the way that fear expresses itself is obviously going to be shaped by its time and place. Take the flood of serial–killer books in the 80s and 90s: I figure those were a response to the growing sense of isolation and anonymity in cities, where the threat isn’t your nearest and dearest any more, the way it is in small–town Agatha Christie; it’s some faceless, nameless stranger. So, while Broken Harbor was never intended to be an “issue book” or anything like that, I was writing it in Ireland from 2009 through 2011, and that seeped in.

Ireland is an epic mess. That’s the mildest way I can put it. And it’s my generation, the thirty–somethings, who are taking the brunt of it. Not me and my husband personally, or most of our friends—we were broke actors for most of the boom, so we couldn’t afford to buy a dog kennel in the middle of nowhere, never mind an actual home. That upset me at the time, but it turned out to have a silver lining in the end. Now a solid proportion of our generation are stuck on half–built, half–occupied, abandoned estates with open sewage pits and no street lighting, miles from any friends or family, and many of their houses are falling to pieces. They’re unemployed or being taxed to the point where they can’t pay their mortgages, and no one’s ever going to buy their houses so they can move on. And their belief in a sane world, a world where they have any control over their own lives, has been smashed.

That haunts me. It should never have happened; it didn’t need to happen. And because Ireland is my home and I love it, I get seriously passionate and seriously angry about terrible things that are done to, and by, this country. That ended up shaping the book.

Q. Some of the worst villains in Broken Harbor are invisible and unassailable—not just the animal in the Spains’ attic, but also the financiers and real estate promoters. What do you think about their culpability in the events of Broken Harbor?

Don’t forget the politicians. For reasons made up of a hellish brew of stupidity, cronyism, and corruption, they were right in there with the property developers and the banks, frantically urging my generation to spend ten times our income on unbuilt houses in the middle of nowhere. Our then-Prime Minister said, charmingly, that anyone who didn’t believe the property boom could last forever should kill themselves.

I don’t believe that the people who fell for the hype are innocent victims. They were grown adults, they signed the contracts, no one forced them; there are plenty of people who said no, and they had the choice to do the same. But at the same time. These are people who were trying their absolute best to do everything right. Everything and everyone around them told them that this was the right thing to do, so they did it. And I think it would be ludicrous to say that the people who urged them on are guiltless.

Psychological mystery is a natural place to explore that whole area - the ambiguity of guilt. There are other mysteries where culpability is a straightforward thing: X killed Y because X is a bad person, the end. And they’re wonderfully satisfying and necessary books, because it’s very cathartic to place and contain evil within one person, with the implication that once that person’s in jail, evil has been purged and the world of the book is safe again. But psychological mystery is a lot less at home with the idea of evil being neatly bounded and simple to confine. In psychological mystery, evil is often a facet of a lot of the characters, not just the killer, and the most evil actions don’t necessarily come from the most evil people - and so, while the justice system punishes the evil action, sometimes the truly evil people do in fact walk away, unassailable.

Q. That animal in the attic is one of the strangest touches in your story. It’s a little like the beast in Lord of the Flies. How did you hit upon it as a plot device?

That’s actually where the whole book began! One night a few years ago, I went into the kitchen, and before I could switch the light on, I half–saw something leap out from behind the toaster, zip across the counter and vanish. I jumped about three feet, but I couldn’t find any sign of anything, and my now–husband gave me a dubious look and gently mentioned my overactive imagination. I was a bit miffed, and a bit wary around the kitchen, but it wasn’t a big deal. And a couple of nights later my husband was the one who went into the kitchen, and he turned on the light in time to see a mouse doing a runner down behind the cooker.

We got some traps and a new toaster, I managed not to say “Told you so,” and that was the end of that—except that something stayed in my mind: the frightening sense of dislocation that comes when your inner reality and your outer reality get out of synch; when what you know to be true and what others see aren’t the same thing. I started thinking about what it would be like if the half–seen something had zipped past someone whose home and marriage were already under threat from outside forces; what it would be like if the mouse didn’t show up on Day 3, if this guy went on hearing his home being invaded by an animal that no one else could hear . . . And a couple of years later, that fit together in my mind with what was happening to people around the economic boom and crash—the utter dislocation between the obvious reality and what we were being told, between what people believed and what was happening all around them. Basically, Broken Harbor was written because we had mice.

Q. Your ongoing fascination with flawed heroes with tortured pasts reminds us very strongly of Greek tragedy. Does your experience with staged drama influence your writing of fiction?

I’ve never taken a creative writing course or anything like that; my equivalent, my writing training, was my time as an actor. Just about everything I learned about acting, except maybe “Never take a bite of cake just before your line,” translates to writing.

Here’s one of the things I learned: a character who’s everything he wants to be, and has everything he wants to have, isn’t interesting. Dramatically, that’s the equivalent of watching some guy sit on his sofa eating Doritos and playing Xbox for a couple of hours: yeah, he’s happy, so what? This is going nowhere. What’s interesting is a character who’s struggling towards something high–stakes, and getting held back by obstacles both outside and inside himself.

In a murder mystery, the external stakes are automatically right up there; stakes don’t get much higher than life, death, truth and justice. The internal stakes are the reason why all my narrators have been damaged, whether temporarily or permanently. Most people are, in one way or another; they’re finding ways to deal with that damage, whether by fighting it or assimilating it or suppressing it. And my books are about the cases that force the narrators to come face to face with the damage—’the cases that mean they can’t keep it under wraps and try to work around it any more, they have to confront it and either move past it or be defined by it forever.

Rob Ryan in In the Woods doesn’t manage to move beyond the damage done by his childhood friends’ disappearance; inThe Likeness, Cassie Maddox is traumatized by the events of In the Woods, but through the events of the book she starts to heal; in Faithful Place, Frank Mackey’s whole perception of himself and his life is changed as he finds out the truth about his first love’s disappearance, and he ends up freed, to some extent, from his old scars. And Broken Harbor is about the case that breaks down Scorcher’s belief in an orderly world governed by reason and the law of cause and effect—the belief that’s been holding him together since childhood. Without that prop, he has to find a new and different way to live.

Or, to put it more concisely: when in doubt, mess with your character’s head.

Q. There’s a lot of thoughtful material in Broken Harbor dealing with male friendship, both between Scorcher and Richie and between Pat and Conor. As a woman, did you find it challenging make these relationships come to life on the page?

Friendship has always been hugely important to me. Probably this is obvious from the books—In the Woods and The Likeness both have friendship at their hearts. I think of it as an essential of life, like water; you can be a perfectly happy, fulfilled person without a partner, or without kids, but I’m not sure it can be done without friends. And when friendship or the capacity for friendship is under attack—because of someone’s own internal damage, like in Scorcher’s case, or because of outside pressures, like in Pat and Conor’s—it strikes right at the core of you, just as powerfully and painfully as when romantic love is under attack. If Scorcher and Richie were able to find their way, that last step to a real friendship, this book would end very differently for both of them.

At its heart, friendship is the same crucial thing whether it’s between men or women. The differences lie in the ways it’s expressed—and when you come down to it, those differences depend on who the individual people are, far more than on whether they’re men or women. I stick to focusing on the specific characters, trying to capture the ways their friendships take shape, the small trivial details that show the underlying layers of trust and love much more clearly than any amount of hugs and deep conversation. Whether the characters are men or women is a factor, sure—and luckily I’ve always had plenty of guy friends, so I’ve seen lots of male friendships in action—but it’s not the only factor, or even the most important one.

Q. Some of the childhoods you portray in Broken Harbor are deeply troubling times. What are your thoughts about childhood in general?

I was lucky: I had a happy childhood. But one thing that’s true of every childhood, happy or unhappy, is that it’s incredibly intense. You don’t have room for the levels of ambivalence and complexity that adults can manage; you’re whole–hearted. And you take in everything. I think you spend your first twenty years learning absolutely everything you’re exposed to, and the next ten or twenty years trying to unlearn the bad bits. Whatever’s in a child’s life, the child assumes it’s a universal truth.

Scorcher learned things that children shouldn’t: that the responsibility for the world rests on his shoulders; and that even the tiniest loss of control can lead to chaos. Those have been built into him, and they take their toll.

Q. Your novel is extremely frank in its confrontation of madness and the ways in which mental illness can fracture lives. Why do you think the theme of madness is so especially interesting in a police procedural novel?

That theme wasn’t deliberate. This will sound bizarre, but I didn’t even realize until a few weeks ago, when someone pointed it out to me, that almost every character in the book is mentally unstable, to some degree; that madness permeates the whole book. It’s very weird to realize just how much of a book is written by your subconscious.

I do think the theme of madness is a natural match for a police procedural—not just in criminal terms, but in psychological ones—which is probably why it shows up relatively often. Procedurals are all about order and control. Murder is the ultimate attack on that order, both societally and psychologically, and it’s up to the detectives to fight off the chaos and turn it back into some kind of order so that we have a society we can live in. Madness is the opposite journey—order fragmenting into chaos, the laws of cause and effect breaking down. The clash between those two, and what it does to a detective caught in the middle, is natural territory for a book.

Q. Your characters in Broken Harbor deal with madness—and suspicions of madness—in radically different ways, with different results. Are there lessons to be learned here?

Definitely no lessons to be learned. I don’t do those. I’m in no position to be giving anyone lessons about anything—specially mental illness, since I’ve been lucky enough, touch wood, that it hasn’t played much of a role in my life. When I write a book that touches on something as big as madness (or murder, for that matter), I’m not trying to teach anyone about it—I don’t think that’s my job, and I wouldn’t be qualified if it were. I’m just trying to understand it, even the smallest bit.

I think the theme of madness was basically inevitable when I started writing a book set in a ghost estate. Those ghost estates were created out of Irish national madness; they’re insanity made solid. There was an overwhelming cultural push towards the idea that, as long as you believe something hard enough, it automatically becomes true: if you keep believing that the boom will last forever, then of course it will, and if you doubt that, well then, it’ll be your fault if it all goes wrong! The actual facts were irrelevant and unpatriotic. There was a national–level fracture between reality and perception; perception wasn’t expected to have any link to reality.

Obviously all experience is subjective, to some extent. But when you start believing that your personal perception is all that matters, that outside reality doesn’t need to be taken into account, then you’re taking a huge leap down the path towards madness. Every form of madness, as far as I can tell, is based on that disconnect in some way or other.

One thing I’ve noticed, since someone pointed out to me what this book’s about: the characters who survive with the least psychological damage are probably Richie, Scorcher’s partner; Conor, the man who’s been spying on the Spains from an abandoned house; and Fiona, Jennifer Spain’s sister. I’m not saying they come out unscathed—they definitely don’t—but, at their cores, they retain some kind of wholeness; under all the devastation, they’re still themselves. And those three are the ones who pay most attention to what’s outside themselves. They really listen to other people; they really watch what’s going on around them; they have, or gain, an awareness that other people’s lives are as real as their own, that reality exists outside of them as well as inside. Again, this wasn’t intentional, and it’s not a lesson or anything, but it does fit with the way I see madness: that dangerous dismissal of outside reality.

Q. More than once, the tragic center of your detective plot has fallen upon a question of inadmissible evidence. Do you have anything to say to someone who might read your books and say, “There, you see? Another perfectly provable case ruined by these stupid constitutional safeguards! We’d have more justice without them”?

The fact is that the system is human, and humans are flawed. Because of that, we absolutely need safeguards, to protect innocent people and to protect justice; but inevitably, those very safeguards sometimes go wrong and end up jeopardizing the exact things they’re meant to protect—releasing a killer to kill again, for example. This is one of the many things about detectives that leaves me awestruck: their job is to navigate that Mobius strip, and to try and come as close as possible to justice within it.

Every now and then, the truth and the rules turn into the two halves of a vice grip, squashing the detective and the case between them—and some part of the detective is inevitably going to get crushed. Either he has to stand by and bite his tongue while justice gets thrown out the window, or he has to break the rules that are there for excellent and crucial reasons—and either way, a part of his integrity is sacrificed.

That’s what happens to Scorcher. His whole view of the world gets crushed in that vice–grip by the events of the book. By the end, he’s had to sacrifice his idea of who he is, and of what his life is going to be, in order to hold onto something that will make the world a recognizable, and bearable, place.

I don’t know how detectives do it.

Q. We were a bit surprised that Frank doesn’t come back for a cameo in Broken Harbor. His relationship with Scorcher in your previous book was so heavily charged.

This is one of the things I enjoy about writing linked books with a different narrator each time: you get to explore that subjectivity that I was talking about earlier, how two people can see the same person or event in two completely different lights. Frank sees his relationship with Scorcher as heavily charged—but that’s mainly because, when Scorcher resurfaces in his life, Frank’s just found out that his first love was murdered, and that the narrative that was the basis for his whole adult life isn’t true. He needs an enemy; he needs someone to fight against. Until he finds out who the killer is, Scorcher—partly because he’s so attached to the rules, which really aren’t Frank’s thing—will do nicely.

But Scorcher doesn’t really see Frank the same way. To Scorcher, Frank isn’t particularly important, at least not at this point in his life—because he doesn’t need Frank, either as an enemy or as an ally. He’s already got more than he can cope with on both fronts. Whoever killed the Spains, plus the bits of Scorcher’s past that the murder churns up, adds up to plenty of enemy for anyone, especially someone as focused and single–minded as Scorcher. As far as allies go, he’s got Richie—who may not seem like much of an ally, considering how young and how new he is, but Scorcher’s not used to having allies at all; he’s used to flying solo, and he doesn’t have an easy time wrapping his head around the idea that he’s starting to see Richie as a partner. So there wasn’t really any room for Frank in his world, or in the book.

Q. What are you working on now?

I’m partway through my fifth book, which is currently called The Secret Place. The narrator this time is Stephen Moran, Frank’s young sidekick from Faithful Place. Frank’s daughter, Holly, now sixteen, shows up at Stephen’s work with a postcard she found on the noticeboard where girls in her school can post their secrets anonymously —a postcard with a photo of a murdered teenage boy, and the caption “I KNOW WHO KILLED HIM.”

And this time Frank does come back!

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  • French’s protagonist, Mick “Scorcher” Kennedy, prides himself on his self–control. Is Scorcher’s self–control as strong as he imagines? In what other ways might Scorcher’s self–image be somewhat incorrect?
  • French writes with considerable affection for Ireland. However, her books often contain more than a hint of lament for the country’s recent decline. What aspects of Ireland in the present day seem to sadden her most?
  • Scorcher believes that post–modern society has begun to turn “feral” and that “everything that stops us being animals is eroding, washing away like sand” (p. 85). Do you agree with Scorcher’s assessment? Explain why or why not. How does Scorcher’s view of society dovetail with his self–image?
  • How do Scorcher’s class prejudices affect his perceptions of the Spain case? Is class bias the only reason he is so desperate to believe in the integrity of Patrick Spain?
  • The relationship between Scorcher and Richie evolves rapidly, beginning as one between an all–wise mentor and his trainee but transforming into a much more contentious one. Discuss this evolution and the ways French uses it to develop the two men’s characters.
  • Why do you think Scorcher doesn’t want to have children? Try to come up with as many plausible explanations as you can.
  • Tana French is a master of creating characters with virtues that are turned into vices by unlucky circumstances. What are some examples of this kind of characterization in Broken Harbor, and how do they act as a commentary on human nature?
  • Explaining her madness, Dina says, “There is no why.” Why is this statement especially disturbing to her brother, Scorcher?
  • How has Scorcher’s childhood shaped the person he is now?
  • How have the more youthful experiences of Conor, Pat, and Jenny shaped their characters and destinies?
  • Tana French manages the emotions of her interrogation scenes with great expertise, creating tremendous tensions and moving toward great crescendos of feeling. Read over one of these scenes and discuss how the emotional force builds, breaks, and subsides.
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Customer Reviews

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 135 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 26, 2012

    Sadly--a real mixed bag

    I LOVE Tana French and have long felt she has only gotten better with each "Dublin Squad" novel--"Faithful Place" is outstanding and one of the best books I've read in the last decade. I waited very impatiently for two years for the new installment--but I cannot rate "Harbor" above three stars.

    On the PLUS side:

    ***An incredibly creepy crime and once the novel reveals the reasons behind it--OMG; I'm reeling.

    ***French's uncanny knack for language and dialogue--she is superb in making her characters HEARD. She is cinematic in her use of language.

    The DOWN side:

    ***While I have always loved French's technique of centering a novel around a character previously introduced in a previous novel--Scorcher may have not been the best choice. He's so patently unlikeable, so smug, pretentious and judgemental that [SPOILER-ISH]even when he does get his comeuppance--it wasn't enough. While "Faithful's" Frank is a hard man to like, his charm and inner vulnerablity carry him; even Rob from the first novel is more grabbing than Scorcher. NO character caught me; NO character made me care enough...the Spain family, yes...but not the major characters. PLEASE bring back Cassie or Frank!

    ***Scorcher's crazy sister is so horrible I couldn't get past her but even she didn't make me care enough about Scorcher. I wanted her GONE.

    ***TOO much repetitive conversation with the partner, witnesses--it just drags; by page 200 you've read the same speculation and theories to the point of screaming; unlike the other novels, the dysfunctional family backstory just is not intriguing. I could not care about Kennedy's family (although it explained a lot about him) and felt it simply took away from the main crime. Editing? Probably needs more.

    I LOVE Tana French--just not this book--but I will wait, impatiently, for book four--like I said--can we find out what Cassie and/or Frank are doing??

    17 out of 20 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 24, 2012

    With 'Broken Harbor', Tana French has once again brought us a th

    With 'Broken Harbor', Tana French has once again brought us a thrilling police procedural with lots of 'crazy' psychological turns and twists. Veteran detective , 'Scorcher' and his new rookie detective, Richie, explore means and methods of working togetherness to solve a terrible tragedy.

    The 'perfect' couple, with their 6 year old Emma, and 3 year old Jack, have been living in the partially developed 'Broken Harbor' by the sea for about a year when their tragedies strikes them. At first it's builders going broke after just starting a new community development. Most of their houses are empty or not completed. All the extras---shops, parks, community centers---have not even begun to be built. But the Spaines and their two children find themselves living there in their new 'dream house' that is anything but a dream. Eventually more tragedy strikes and our story begins with two dead children in their beds, and a bloody mess in the kitchen, where Patrick lies dead with his barely alive wife curled up beside him.

    Tana French expertly uses today's headlines to develop her psychological story line. Builders going broke, homes empty, job loses becoming more prevalent amongst the 'climbing' middle classes, and message boards on computers becoming the primary source for information, communications, and the hope of helpful comforting solutions to life's problems.

    Mix this case in with a developing working relationship with a veteran and rookie cop, add in a less than admirable fellow officer, plus a large dose of our veteran cop's nearly psychotic sister, and top it off with a stalking 'best friend'. What do you have? Another winning read from Tana French!! Be prepared to keep reading till you complete this book once you open the first pages. I was on page 100 before I realized that we'd not even left the scene of the crime yet, and I was loving it!!

    14 out of 15 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 29, 2012

    I Also Recommend:

    Really great book. Kept me entertained all the way.

    Really great book. Kept me entertained all the way.

    11 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 21, 2012

    I would give five stars to each of the three previous Tana Frenc

    I would give five stars to each of the three previous Tana French books
    and really looked forward to Broken Harbor. It was a disappointment, a
    waste of money and precious time. I only kept going because it was Tana
    French, after all. I skimmed over pages and pages of dialogue that
    didn't go anywhere and more pages and pages of the animal in the attic

    6 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 28, 2012

    A cut above the usual in this genre.

    Like Denise Mina, French creates incredibly real characters, pokes at big questions about life and human nature, includes intense psychological drama in an enthralling story. A complete book. Very good literature first and then a crime novel. I have read all her books. I recommend every one. I could hardly wait for this book which is as great as the rest.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 5, 2012

    I couldn't put this book down...just brilliant!

    I couldn't put this book down...just brilliant!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 8, 2013

    So repetitive with boring plot!

    Love a good mystery anytime and the subject matter seemed interesting but in the end it was dissatisfying and a let down. The plot kept building but it never fulfilled its promise. Very disappointing and not sure what the whole point was. Don't waste your time.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 21, 2012

    Bored bored bored

    Ive read ms. French's previous books and loved them. I was very bored with broken harbor. Couldnt wait til the end so it'd be over.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 17, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Mick "Scorcher" Kennedy is the top detective in the Mu

    Mick "Scorcher" Kennedy is the top detective in the Murder
    Squad. He is now partnered with rookie Richie Curran, just out of
    uniform. Kennedy has dropped down to #2 in solve rates in his
    department. Then he is handed what should be a dream case. Patrick
    Spain and his two children are found dead in one of the half-built/half
    abandoned "luxury developments" in a place called Brainstown.
    His wife Jenny is in intensive care. What was first thought to be an
    easy case turns out to be a lot harder when too many clues can't be
    explained. The neighborhood used to be called Broken Harbor and
    Kennedy's family has a little history with the place. His sister Dina
    freaks out when she sees the case on the news. She is remembering
    something about the summer they spent there as kids. Something
    "Scorcher" thought was deeply buried. Kennedy has his hands
    full as he tries to solve the case and keep his sister safe and out of
    trouble. I was so looking forward to reading this book. It really had
    me well past halfway but then it just seemed to fall apart. This book
    is a police procedural type story which I usually find very interesting.
    This one started really good but after the middle is really started to
    drag and got boring. Yes, boring. I found myself barely skimming through
    the pages just to get to the end. I had figured out who-dun-it very
    early on and all the dialogue, tons of dialogue was just filling pages
    to tell readers what we already knew. Then at the end there were still
    so many questioned answered. Almost 500 pages and we are left to wonder
    about so much. What really upset me was when the lead character started
    to make some choices a man in his position would never make. A law and
    order guy would not risk his career this way. As far as the other
    characters, his other sister Geri just seems to be too lackadaisical
    about their sister, Dina, with the mental heath issues. Dina was just
    plain annoying. My verdict is still out on the rookie Curran, he could
    develop into a solid character in a future installment. I have enjoyed
    other French novels and by the end of this one I was even questioning if
    she had really written this story. I got to the end and realized I
    really knew nothing about Mike Kennedy. The man had absolutely no real
    back story. His life was his job occasionally uninterrupted by his crazy
    sister. I know Tana French is a much better writer than this and I hope
    her next book is shorter and full of the dynamic characters and the
    thrills I know she can deliver.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 18, 2013

    L Not Tana French's best just ok

    Her writing is amazing but the only part i really felt sucked me in was when the wife was describing how her and her husband reached that final point. I got it.

    Still looking forward to her next novel. Still a huge fan.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 29, 2012

    A real disappointment after Faithful Place

    So Tana French spoiled all of us with Faithful Place, which was outstanding in every way. I expected Broken Harbor to meet or exceed her work in Faithful Place, but what a disappointment. She is undoubtedly an excellent writer, and has that rare ability to catch, hold and keep the reader page after page after page. Unfortunately, that didn't happen here. The story line was muddled and key characters not well developed. I felt like I read the entire book through a smudged window. All that said, I do look forward to her next book. (I thought Faithful Place was that good.)

    1 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 23, 2015

    Got this book at the thrift store for $1......I was ripped off!

    Got this book at the thrift store for $1......I was ripped off! I've read her others and liked them but this one was a waste of my time and I'm retired!!!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted November 28, 2014

    French is an excellent writer.  Perfect ear fro dialogue, intere

    French is an excellent writer.  Perfect ear fro dialogue, interesting plot.  She kept me to the end on a rainy afternoon.  But, like Donna Tartt, French needs an editor with more control over the material.  I figured out who dunnit  way sooner than I should have, and some situations were enlarged upon to the point of agony for the reader.  The wild animal, the details of Conor's infatuation,s, every detail was  worked to death.  This could have been a much stronger book with proper tightening.  But for  French's organizational sense, her sharp ear for dialogue, and her general all around talent, Broken Harbor gets three stars from me.  

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 23, 2014

    Tana French is brilliant

    Fourth in the series, she evojes a tremendous sense of place, of longing and into her charachters souls,

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 22, 2014

    Broken Harbor follows murder squad detective Mick "Scorcher

    Broken Harbor follows murder squad detective Mick "Scorcher" Kennedy who was the detective investigating Rosie and Kevin's murders
    in the previous book in this series, Faithful Place.

    So in Faithful Place we first met Scorcher but to tell you the truth I did not particularly care for him, some characters you like some you
    don't, but anyway I wasn't to keen when I first started reading Broken Harbor because I held onto a little prejudice against him from the
    previous book. However, I soon changed my mind about old Scorcher once I got to know him past the egotistical attitude that he uses
    as a shield to keep the dark things from his past from devouring him.

    This was a hard read not just because of Scorcher, but because two of the victims are children, young children. So you have been
    warned don't read further if you cannot stand it.

    Patrick Spain, wife Jenny and their two children, Emma and Jack, seemed to be a wonderful family. Even though they were going through
    some money issues since Patrick got laid off from his job they still appeared happy, appeared being the word here. But underneath
    Patrick and Jenny were both becoming unstable and both of the children were in danger. 

    This story has many supporting characters and a web of lies and deceit that are to complicated to try and summarize in the book review
    so this is going to be short and more of a teaser than most of my reviews.

    Scorcher gets assigned to the case at Broken Harbor, Patrick is dead as is Emma and Jack, and Jenny is badly injured and on her way
    to the hospital not sure if she will make it or not. High-profile does not even begin to describe a case where children have been murdered
    and Scorcher and his rookie partner, Richie, are going to have to get this one right or else. 

    There is a back story to the setting of Broken Harbor and how it relates to those dark things from Scorcher's past, for before it was a
    development it use to be the beach where his family would go during the summer to stay and it is also where Scorcher's mother walked
    into the ocean one day and killed herself. The really sad part is she had tried to walk into the ocean with Scorcher's youngest sister, Dina,
    but she survived whereas her mother did not. Their whole world turned upside down, mother dead, father overcome with grief that he just
    shut down, and Scorcher with sister Geri pretty much raised Dina who is bogged down with a lot of mental issues stemming from
    her experience that night on the beach with her mother. So Dina flip flops out of Scorcher's life right when he needs to be completely
    on the job but he constantly is worried about his sister while trying to track down the murderer.

    Scorcher and Richie finally have a suspect in custody, Conor Brennan, Pat and Jenny's friend from when they were kids, he was even
    Emma's godfather, but due to some spat they had a falling out and Conor was no longer involved in their lives. Well they were wrong,
    for Conor had set up in one of the abandoned homes in the development and was watching the Spain's house. Creepy right!

    Scorcher thinks they got their man but Richie is not so sure and keeps putting pressure on Scorcher to keep checking out Pat, Scorcher
    agrees even though his is so sure Conor was the doer. What Scorcher doesn't know though is that Richie pocketed evidence that directly
    implicates someone else, neither Conor nor Pat, and if it wasn't for Dina, his sister, than Scorcher may have never known of its existence.

    An unreal confession comes out from the evidence and the whole case turns into a huge mess. Richie will never work murder again he is
    lucky to have even kept his badge but can Scorcher fix up this mess so that justice is served.

    Blow's my mind is the perfect way to describe how I feel after I finish one of Tana French's books and even though I didn't care for this
    one as much as I have some of her others it is still a spectacular story of the messed up lives of ordinary people, I think that is why her
    books are so relatable I mean the Spain's could be my next door neighbors for crying out loud. A scary look into the mind of Conor just
    adds to it even though he thought what he was doing was harmless it was still super duper creepy. You'll be putting your blinds down
    for good after you read this one.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 26, 2014

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  • Posted February 22, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Maria Book provided by the publisher for review Revi

    Reviewed by Maria
    Book provided by the publisher for review
    Review originally posted at Romancing the Book

    This book absorbed me and literally claimed my attention until the last satisfying word. Murder Detective Mick ‘Scorcher’ Kennedy is what you might call (in Dublin at least) a sound man. He has it all covered from every angle. As he says himself, if he’s working on a case, it’s getting done right. He’s brash, confident and focused. But the case of a young family, found slaughtered in a house in a ghostly, half abandoned housing estate which came up in Dublin during the boom a few years back affects him deep down in places he thought were sealed and locked forever.

    What happened to Pat and Jenny Spain on that fateful night? They’d more or less kept out of touch and kept their contact with friends and relatives more or less to the minimum after Pat lost his job. What brought about the undoing of a couple so much in love with two beautiful kids? As Scorcher embarks on a journey of discovery, he comes up against his own painful experiences with Broken Harbor, the place where this murder happened, many years before.

    I particularly loved the dialogue in the novel. The Irish have a sense of humor that can laugh in the face of death and it comes out beautifully here. The conversation between Scorcher and the technical expert who comes to examine the scene of the crime is hilarious. Scorcher tells the man: ‘We’ve got enough blood spatter to keep you happy for weeks.’ ‘Oh, lovely,’ comes the reply. Sounds awful, doesn’t it? But methinks deep down, that’s the kind of humor which helps a person to keep their sanity, especially when they’re staring death in the face every other day. ‘One more bedsit overdose and I think I’d have died of boredom.’ That’s the technical expert again. But as Scorcher unravels the story of the crime, slowly and painstakingly, we realize it’s going to take a lot more than a black sense of humor to get him through.

    Crime thriller though it is, it’s very much a comment on the scene in a country reeling from the effects of a recession. The gloom, the soul destroying hopelessness in what was, a few short years ago, a land of plenty and prosperity. Tana French’s books tend to leave you with much to think about. My prayer for Ireland during this time would be that the recession will heal and people will get their lives back again. My wish for Scorcher, were he real and not a figment of an author’s imagination would be that he and his family get some closure and healing for their past tragedies and that Scorcher can meet the right woman, preferably someone who already has grown up kids (as his marriage broke up because he didn’t want any) who can give him the back rubs and the listening ear he so badly needs when he comes home from saving the world.


    Favorite Quote:  “Let’s get one thing straight; I was the perfect man for this case.”
    “Let’s get another thing clear, while we’re at it; I am bloody good at my job. I still believe that. I’ve been on the Murder Squad for ten years, and for seven of those, ever since I found my feel, I’ve had the highest solve rate in the place. This year I’m down to second, but the top guy got a run of slam-dunks, domestics where the suspect practically slapped the cuffs on his own wrists and served himself up on a plate with applesauce.”

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  • Posted January 25, 2014

    This book was a big disappointment after Faithful Place.  I even

    This book was a big disappointment after Faithful Place.  I even enjoyed The Likeness, with all its improbabilities, more.  Most mystery readers will guess what happened and why early on, and will be greatly irritated by the constant repetitions of clues and their possible meanings.  Parts of the book read like a TV show in which characters keep telling each other what they already know, supposedly to elucidate the situation for the audience.  French may intend the crazy sister and Scorcher's devotion to be affecting, but most readers will probably find them either boring or aggravating.  The book is so padded with unnecessary verbiage one wonders whether Ms. French was paid by the paragraph.  Anyone who enjoyed Ms. French's previous books must hope she recovers her skills with the next one.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 3, 2014

    Realistically creepy.

    This was my first Tana French novel, and I'm craving more. The creepiness of the setting is so vivid and so plausible that it is enough to drive the story. Enough said.

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  • Posted December 30, 2013

    This fourth installment about the Dublin Murder Squad focuses on

    This fourth installment about the Dublin Murder Squad focuses on Mick "Scorcher" Kennedy, who was introduced in the prior novel Faithful Place. All of the aspects that made the preceding books great are here: tight plotting, fully-fleshed character development, interesting and informative subplots, insight into police procedures without slowing the story, realistic Irish language/dialect, and twists and surprises that constantly thrill the reader and enrich the story. Toward the end there is perhaps a wee excess of introspection, but if you've liked the other three novels (which do not have to be read to enjoy this one) you'll find this a solid entry in the series.

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