Broken Harbor
Goodreads ratings
3.94 / 5

"Broken Harbor" Summary

By Tana French

mystery | 450 pages | Published in 2012

Mick “Scorcherˮ Kennedy is the star of the Dublin Murder Squad. He plays by the books and plays hard, and thatʼs how the biggest case of the year ends up in his hands. On one of the half-abandoned “luxuryˮ developments that litter Ireland, Patrick Spain and his two young children have been murdered. His wife, Jenny, is in intensive care. At first, Scorcher thinks itʼs going to be an easy solve, but too many small things canʼt be explained: the half-dozen baby monitors pointed at holes smashed in the Spainsʼ walls, the files erased from the familyʼs computer, the story Jenny told her sister about a shadowy intruder slipping past the houseʼs locks. And this neighborhood—once called Broken Harbor—holds memories for Scorcher and his troubled sister, Dina: childhood memories that Scorcher thought he had tightly under control.


Estimated read time: 5 min read

One Sentence Summary

A detective investigates a brutal crime in a seemingly idyllic neighborhood, uncovering dark secrets along the way.

Broken Harbor by Tana French: A Gripping Psychological Thriller


In the psychological thriller "Broken Harbor" by Tana French, readers are immersed in a gripping tale of murder, family secrets, and the dark underbelly of suburban life. This fourth installment in French's Dublin Murder Squad series takes readers on a suspenseful journey through the mind of a detective haunted by his own past as he investigates a brutal crime that unravels the lives of an unsuspecting family.

Brief Synopsis

The story is set in the seemingly idyllic neighborhood of Broken Harbor, a once-thriving seaside community outside Dublin. Detective Mick "Scorcher" Kennedy, known for his meticulousness and relentless pursuit of justice, is assigned to a high-profile case involving the murder of a father and his two children. The mother, Jenny Spain, survives the attack but is critically injured.

As Kennedy delves deeper into the investigation, he uncovers a web of secrets and lies that shatter the image of Broken Harbor as a peaceful haven. The Spain family's perfect life is revealed to be a facade, and Kennedy's own troubled past resurfaces, threatening to consume him.

Main Characters

Character NameDescription
Detective Mick "Scorcher" KennedyA seasoned detective known for his dedication and attention to detail.
Jenny SpainThe surviving victim of the attack, struggling to recover physically and emotionally.
Pat SpainThe murdered father, whose past actions come to light during the investigation.
Emma SpainThe eldest daughter of the Spain family, hiding her own secrets.
Richie SpainThe youngest son, whose innocence is shattered by the events surrounding his family's murder.

Summary of Story Points over Chapters

Chapter 1-3: The Crime Scene

Detective Kennedy and his rookie partner, Richie Curran, arrive at the Spain family's home in Broken Harbor. The crime scene is meticulously described, with signs of a struggle and strange markings on the walls. They discover the bodies of Pat Spain and his two children, while Jenny Spain fights for her life in the hospital.

Chapter 4-6: Uncovering Secrets

Kennedy interviews Jenny Spain in the hospital, but her memory of the attack is fragmented. He begins to dig into the Spain family's past and discovers that Pat had been hiding financial troubles. Kennedy also uncovers disturbing evidence of a stalker, adding complexity to the case.

Chapter 7-9: Dark Past and Personal Demons

As Kennedy continues his investigation, his own troubled past resurfaces. Flashbacks reveal the traumatic events that shaped him, including the death of his mentally ill sister. The line between his personal demons and the murder case begins to blur.

Chapter 10-12: Twist and Turns

New evidence points to Emma Spain, the eldest daughter, as a potential suspect. Kennedy delves deeper into her life, uncovering her involvement in a secretive online community. As the case takes unexpected twists and turns, Kennedy must confront his own biases and preconceptions.

Chapter 13-15: Final Showdown

Kennedy confronts Emma Spain about her online activities and her potential involvement in the murder. The truth behind the crime is revealed, leading to a shocking revelation that sends Kennedy reeling. The ultimate showdown tests his resolve and forces him to confront his own vulnerabilities.

Main Events

  1. The discovery of the murdered Spain family and the critical injury of Jenny Spain.
  2. Uncovering the financial troubles and secrets of the Spain family.
  3. Detective Kennedy's personal demons resurfacing and impacting the investigation.
  4. The revelation of Emma Spain's involvement in a secretive online community.
  5. The final confrontation that exposes the truth and tests Kennedy's resolve.

Themes and Insights

  • The facade of suburban perfection: "Broken Harbor" explores the idea that beneath the surface of seemingly idyllic neighborhoods, dark secrets and hidden struggles can fester.
  • The impact of past trauma: Through Kennedy's character, the novel delves into the long-lasting effects of past trauma and the ways it can shape and haunt individuals.
  • The danger of unchecked obsession: The story highlights the dangers of obsessive behavior, as characters become consumed by their desires and lose touch with reality.
  • The complexities of family dynamics: French intricately examines the intricacies and complexities of family relationships, portraying the ways in which past actions can have lasting consequences.

Reader's Takeaway

"Broken Harbor" is a gripping psychological thriller that will keep readers on the edge of their seats. Tana French masterfully weaves a tale of suspense, exploring themes of suburban façades, personal demons, and the impact of past trauma. This novel will leave readers questioning the true nature of happiness and the lengths people will go to protect their secrets.


With its compelling characters, intricate plot twists, and exploration of dark psychological depths, "Broken Harbor" is a must-read for fans of gripping thrillers. Tana French's ability to delve into the complexities of human nature and create an atmospheric setting makes this novel a standout in the genre. Prepare to be captivated by the secrets lurking beneath the surface of "Broken Harbor."

Broken Harbor FAQ

  1. What is 'Broken Harbor' about?

    Broken Harbor is a psychological thriller that follows Detective Mick 'Scorcher' Kennedy as he investigates a brutal attack on a family in an abandoned housing development in Ireland.

  2. Who is the author of 'Broken Harbor'?

    Tana French is the author of 'Broken Harbor.'

  3. Is 'Broken Harbor' part of a series?

    'Broken Harbor' is the fourth book in Tana French's Dublin Murder Squad series, but it can be read as a standalone novel.

  4. What is unique about Tana French's writing style?

    Tana French is known for her atmospheric and character-driven storytelling. Her writing combines elements of crime fiction with psychological depth, creating immersive and suspenseful narratives.

  5. Are there any trigger warnings for 'Broken Harbor'?

    Yes, 'Broken Harbor' includes themes of violence and mental illness, so it may not be suitable for all readers. Please check content warnings or reviews if you have specific concerns.

  6. What are some other books by Tana French?

    Tana French has written several other highly acclaimed novels, including 'In the Woods,' 'The Likeness,' 'Faithful Place,' 'The Secret Place,' 'The Trespasser,' and 'The Witch Elm.'

  7. Is 'Broken Harbor' a fast-paced thriller?

    'Broken Harbor' is a slow-burning psychological thriller that focuses on character development and explores the impact of trauma. While it has suspenseful moments, it may not be as fast-paced as some other thrillers.

  8. Are there any film adaptations of 'Broken Harbor'?

    As of now, there are no film adaptations of 'Broken Harbor.'