Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Secret Place by Tana French

The Secret Place (Dublin Murder Squad #5) by   French
Published September 2014 by Viking Adult
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Publisher's Summary:
The photo on the card shows a boy who was found murdered, a year ago, on the grounds of a girls’ boarding school in the leafy suburbs of Dublin. The caption says I KNOW WHO KILLED HIM.

Detective Stephen Moran has been waiting for his chance to get a foot in the door of Dublin’s Murder Squad—and one morning, sixteen-year-old Holly Mackey brings him this photo. “The Secret Place,” a board where the girls at St. Kilda’s School can pin up their secrets anonymously, is normally a mishmash of gossip and covert cruelty, but today someone has used it to reignite the stalled investigation into the murder of handsome, popular Chris Harper. Stephen joins forces with the abrasive Detective Antoinette Conway to find out who and why.

But everything they discover leads them back to Holly’s close-knit group of friends and their fierce enemies, a rival clique—and to the tangled web of relationships that bound all the girls to Chris Harper. Every step in their direction turns up the pressure. Antoinette Conway is already suspicious of Stephen’s links to the Mackey family. St. Kilda’s will go a long way to keep murder outside their walls. Holly’s father, Detective Frank Mackey, is circling, ready to pounce if any of the new evidence points toward his daughter. And the private underworld of teenage girls can be more mysterious and more dangerous than either of the detectives imagined.

My Thoughts:
In The Secret Place, French alternates chapters between Moran and Conway in the present (two loners who will have to learn to trust each other and work together) and Holly and her group of friends, both past and present, as they try desperately to hold onto the bonds of a friendship they were once certain was unbreakable. It's a tool that works well for the most part, often giving readers a peek into things the detectives have yet to discover; but it also made things just that much more confusing. Which may have been French's intent. Because if you tell me you figured out who killed Chris Harper and why before the end of the book, I'd be sorely tempted to call you a liar.

Liars, in fact abound, in The Secret Place. French's teenaged girls use lies to both hurt and protect and  only through manipulation and their own lies are the detectives likely to get anything useful out of them. All of those lies will slowly unravel but the damage has long since been done by the time they do.

My favorite things about this book? The dialect, the relationship  between Conway and Moran, and the Mackeys, both father and daughter. A couple of gripes: the slang occasionally felt like a bit too much and, at 452 pages, it felt about 25-30 pages too long. Some things just got a bit repetitive. But, again, since the present day portion of the book is all set within one long, draining day, perhaps French wanted readers to feel that same exhaustion, that feel of going no where. I'm willing to give her the benefit of the doubt because I really liked this book, despite a being left with a feeling of hopelessness for the characters.

If you're a fan of mysteries or have heard great things about French and want to read one of her books, start at the beginning of the series. I didn't do that. I started the series with the fourth book, Broken Harbor; this is my second in the series. Unlike other series, it's not essential to start with book one; there's not a continuum of events and not all of the characters carry through from book to book. But French does carry some characters from one book into later books (primarily moving a character that had been secondary into the forefront), and knowing the background would be helpful in understanding the interplay of the characters.


  1. I've just collected Tana French's In the Woods from the library after reserving one or two of her earlier books. I'm glad it's the first in the series. I shall have to ignore the mixed reviews. As you say, it's probably better to start at the beginning and follow the main characters as they develop, which I try and do. Then I shall have The Secret Place to look forward to if I find the series interesting. The Dublin setting will be a new one for me.

  2. This sounds very good. Making a note.

  3. This is my favorite of the series. I loved the dialect!

  4. This was one of my top read for 2014. I've read all Tana French's books and though her books are not a series exactly, characters repeat. I always find it fun to guess which one will be the "star" of the next book. I'm not usually right. LOL

    I don't think I did guess the end, although I picked the book apart the whole time I was reading. The girl slang did get a bit old, but I read more than one "teen" girl mystery this last year and OMG! :-)

    Can't wait to see what she comes up with next. Are you going to go back and read the first 3? You should.

  5. I have this one but another blogger told me to read one book before this one and now I can't remember the name. Maybe it was Broken Harbor. I read the very first book and loved it but it was a slow read for me. I remember taking a really long time with it, which made me not to anxious to pick up the next book even though I thought the first book was really good.

  6. I have only read the first book in the series, which I loved. I got this one for Christmas and have some catching up to do before I get to it. I'm glad you liked it, Lisa.

  7. This just confirms I need to continue with the series. I finished the first two and just have not gotten around to the next one. I do love her writing and her stories, so shame on me for not making them a higher priority. I'm glad you are enjoying her Dublin Murder Squad series!