Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Book Review Club (September 2012)

WE ARE BACK! After a summer of fun and games, and, of course, books, we're back in full swing for a Book Review Club meeting. We missed you and missed each other and missed talking books. Lots of great reviews below!

You remember KELLY HAYES, one of my Denny's Chicks critique partners? You're in for a treat because Kelly wrote this month's review for my blog. She's amazingly well read and an amazing reviewer. I have a book deadline this fall, and Kelly offered to do the September review to help me out. All together now....Awwwwww. Thank you, Kelly!

BROKEN HARBOR by Tana French

I’m not normally a mystery reader, but I love Tana French’s books. Maybe that’s because they’re not your average whodunits. Don’t get me wrong, they always start with a dead body and there’s always a hard-boiled Irish detective on the case, but that’s where the formula ends. What develops after that is always an intriguing story, with well-drawn characters, moody atmosphere and plenty of dark humor.

Broken Harbor, French’s fourth book, is set in an upscale seaside housing estate outside of Dublin. Well, it was supposed to be upscale, but when Ireland’s economy took a dive, the developers of the estate jumped ship. Now the place is a rambling, unfinished, isolated mess out in the middle of nowhere and its inhabitants can’t move on because they can’t sell up.

In one house, Patrick Spain and his two young children have been murdered and his wife, Jenny is in intensive care. The otherwise pristine house has strange holes knocked in the walls and baby monitors set up in odd places. Something very bizarre went on in this house. Enter Detective Mick “Scorcher” Kennedy and his rookie partner, Richie to try to unravel this complex and psychologically wrought case.

One of the things I love about French’s books is that a secondary character in one book becomes the main character in the next. So you kind of know the character from before, but only from someone else’s perspective. And the main character is not always someone you‘d love to know better. Scorcher Kennedy is a by-the-book detective, detached and a little self-satisfied. He’s hard to know, but you still want to understand him. That’s what makes it so riveting when he begins to crumble under the strain of the case and his personal connection to it. This is a testament to Tana French’s talent. Her characters are always complex and acutely drawn.

Another device French uses in all of her books is the personal stake each detective has in the case. In Broken Harbor, Kennedy remembers the eponymous beach from his childhood, when his family took their annual holidays there. And he’s not the only one who remembers the tragic events that happened the last time his family stayed at Broken Harbor. His mentally ill sister remembers too and she’s not going to let Kennedy keep those memories neatly locked away any more.

French in not the kind of author who lines up the suspects and red herrings to confuse the reader. In fact, I usually have a pretty good idea who the culprit is about half-way through the story. But then, I don’t read Tana Franch’s books to be shocked and amazed at the end. Her books are not so much about who as they are about why.

If you are a fan of Tana French’s books you’ll probably find Broken Harbor as engrossing as the others. If you’ve haven’t tried her books, start with the first, In the Woods. If it gets under your skin like it did mine, you’ll want to read them all. And you’re in for a treat.

Thank you, Kelly! And, now, onto more amazing reviews! Please click through. It will make your day. Promise.

Jody Feldman: UNGIFTED by Gordon Kormon (upper middle grade)

Linda McLaughlin: THE LONDON EYE MYSTERY by Siobhan Dowd (middle grade)

Sarah Laurence: CODE NAME VERITY by Elizabeth Wein (young adult)

Ellen Booraem of Freelance Ne'er-do-well: HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS by Robert Liparulo (book#1, young adult, fantasy adventure series)

Linda McLaughlin: DRAWN by Marie Lamba (young adult, fantasy)

Patti Abbott: CANADA by Richard For

Scott Parker: REDSHIRTS by John Scalzi (science fiction)

Lucy Sartain of Ranting and Raving: THE MERYL STREEP MOVIE by Mia March (women's)

Jenn Jilks of Cottage Country: THE BATTLE OF CRYSLER'S FARM by Ron Doering (historical)

Beth Yarnall: WICKED PARADISE by Erin Richards (urban fantasy)

Kaye of the Road Goes Ever Ever On: WAKING LAZARUS by T.L. Hines (thriller)

Prairie Rose of Prairie Rose's Garden: THE LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

Staci of Life in the Thumb: ALL THE TRUTH by Laura Brodie (contemporary)

Note to Reviewers: Any errors (broken link, missed review, etc), just shoot me an email or leave a comment. Thank you so much for your reviews!