2014: 65. The Secret Place


"There's this song that keeps coming on the radio, but Holly can only ever catch bits of it."

The Secret Place, Tana French

Oh hi, everyone! I'm back! I was off the blogging mapping for a while, recovering from my latest surgery, but even though I wasn't writing reviews, I was reading up a storm - so get ready for a bookapalooza!  One thing I did before I went under the knife was make a nice big purchase of a whole bunch of books I've been dying to read -- and I've read them all -- so away we go.

The first thing was the new Tana French! I've enjoyed to loved all her previous books, so I was very excited (like, buy it in hardcover excited) to see the newest book hit the shelves.  As you probably know, she writes about the Dublin police department murder squad, each novel featuring a different detective, solving a different murder.  Which is a nice twist on the traditional detective series - and it's always fun when the books refer to one of the other detectives you previously got to know.

This book features detective Stephan Moran, who played a minor role in French's previous book, Faithful Place, and Holly Mackey, daughter of Frank Mackey - who was a major player in that book.  Stephan is on the cold case squad, but he wants to be working murders, instead.  He'd had a chance - when he was a young detective it was he who helped take Holly's testimony when she was a witness to a crime.  So when Holly shows up at his office today, claiming to have information about a murder that had taken place at her posh school, St. Hilda's, he jumps at the chance to get in on a murder case.  He works with the officer assigned to the case - Detective Antoinette Conway - who has a chip on her shoulder about the rich students and a prickly personality in general - to try to figure out what had happened a year ago, when a male student from the neighboring boy's school was found dead on the grounds.  The investigation narrows down to two groups of girls - Holly and her friends, and their rivals - the school's queen bees.  Which girl could possibly a killer?

Let me start by saying this is a great read. I've been doing a LOT of sitting around and reading lately, and this one, I basically read in one sitting.  I liked Stephan, and his relationship with Conway, and all the interpersonal police department stuff (trying to get into the squad, figuring out if they could be partners, dealing with Frank Mackey, once he gets looped in).  French always knocks that stuff out of the park, and this book was no exception.  And I loved the class stuff - how the two detectives dealt with the rich kids and their fancy school - as compared to the lower class world they themselves came from.

But the most interesting part of the book is the way that French wrote about the teens - in the book the chapters alternate between Moran trying to solve the case, and flashbacks to the year before the murder, just slices of life of the girls in school.  And French is amazing in capturing the girl's lives - what it's like to be a teenager, and dealing with boys, and female friendships, and figuring out who you are.  It's such a great way to make the characters come to life beyond just being suspects.  And the solution to the mystery (which, if I am to be honest, I found a weeee bit hard to swallow), wouldn't work at all unless we had that sense of who these girls were before all this happened.  

So, yes, I recommend the book, especially if you've enjoyed any of her others, or like mysteries at all.  They definitely offer more than your average cozy whodunnit in terms of plot and especially characterization.  A great read.

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017