Saturday, January 14, 2017


Rating: 3 of 5 stars

Tana French's fifth novel in the Dublin Murder Squad Series is The Secret Place. Just like the previous four books, French wastes no time in setting up the murder. However, in this particular book, the murder is about a year-old cold case surrounding teenagers.

Set on the grounds of a posh boarding school for girls and using elements from a popular website/blog (PostSecret), we are introduced again to Detective Stephan Moran, who made an appearance in Faithful Place (book) #3. We meet new character to the reader, Detective Antoinette Conway. And Detective Frank Mackey [The Likeness (book #2), Faithful Place (book #3)] and his daughter Holly Mackey reappear.

Chris Harper, a boy from a nearby boarding school for boys was murdered a year ago, and Holly (because of her previous experience) reaches out to Detective Moran with a clue that offers to re-open the case. Wanting to transfer from the Cold Case Squad to the Murder Squad, Moran uses this tip from Holly to persuade Detective Conway, the original detective on the Harper murder case, to let him tag along. From there, we spend several hours on campus with the detectives questioning two groups of girls who all had motive to kill the boy from the neighboring school.

As always, French uses a familiar who done it premise, to pull us into this Dublin, Ireland community. The book alternates between Detective Moran and Holly, each chapter giving us clues and positing a viable solution. By the end of the novel, you do find out who did it and why. It is one of French's more tidy endings. It just takes an awful long time to get there. I found the book to include too many characters, and trying to remember which girl had which personality and was part of which group and what the pecking order was in that particular group made the book a little heavy to sift through.

On the other hand, I did enjoy watching the relationship between Detective Mackey (as a father and a professional) evolve as well as the relationship between Detective Moran and Detective Conway grow. (Prior to this book, Moran and Conway were relatively unknown to one another.) I think that is the gift of reading Tana French. It's not necessarily about the murder, although that is what keeps the story moving, it's more about the character development between the detectives. They are all a little broken (aren't we all?), and the author captures their complexities in an engaging way.

I enjoyed this book, not as much as the others (books #1-#4), but it was a satisfying read. I think this is one of the novels where having read the other books might help create more of an understanding and a clearer backdrop. But as I said in my Broken Harbor review, it's not necessary to read all of French's books or read them in order to appreciate her craft.

If you enjoy murder mysteries and take guilty pleasure in the mean-girl cliques, you will probably devour this book. As I understand it, Detective Conway and Detective Moran will reprise their roles in French's sixth book, The Trespasser, which is on my to-be-read list. If French maintains her writing trend, we'll see book #7 some time in 2018

Recommendation: French is an excellent storyteller, painting vivid pictures of empathetic characters.

Until next time ... Read on!


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