The Secret Place by Tana French, Dublin Murder Squad

the-secret-place

In life I’m always in a hurry. Slow walkers drive me crazy, I buy groceries at odd times to avoid lines, people with complicated orders at Starbucks might be the death of me. I do everything I possibly can to rush. The only time I’m not in a hurry is when I’m reading a book I don’t want to end.

It took much longer to read the “The Secret Place” than I would like to admit because I didn’t want to come home and find it had moved from my nightstand to my bookshelf.

I have been hooked on Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad series since I randomly picked up “In the Woods” at the library. I was drawn in to the story by her beautiful and clear writing, well-developed and realistic characters, fascinating mysteries and insightful look at modern Ireland. She is a master at mixing suspense, police procedure and character development. Mysteries don’t always get the respect they deserve but French’s books are without a doubt some of the best being published today.

After finishing “In the Woods”, I spent hours in the middle of the night scouring reviews and blogs for opinions on the ambiguous ending (that’s another post within itself) because I still couldn’t let go of the story.  I purchased the book for my mom for Christmas that year and she loved it so much that she ordered the rest of French’s books from Amazon.

“The Secret Place” is the latest and fifth addition to the series and brings back several characters from 2010’s “Faithful Place” (my favorite book in the series so far), Detective Stephen Moran, Detective Frank Mackey and his teenage daughter Holly.

Now a student at a posh, all-girls boarding school St. Kilda’s, Holly comes to Stephen with a clue on a cold case. Someone has posted on an anonymous note that says “I know who killed him” on St. Kilda’s confessions bulletin board, The Secret Place (which has a PostSecret-like philosophy but actually is physical board hanging in the school). The note is referring to the murder of Chris Harper, a student at a nearby boarding school for boys St. Colm’s, who was found bludgeoned to death on the grounds of St. Kilda’s about one year earlier.

Stephen joins forces with Antoinette Conway, a detective who was on the original case. They are immediately thrown into the complicated, gritty and brutal world of teenage girls at St. Kilda’s.

It’s been 10 years since I was the same age as the characters but I can still tell that French masterfully captures the habits of teen girls. Chris’ murder brought an unwelcome taste of the outside world to the sheltered and insular St. Kilda’s and it has forced the girls to question the world around them.

This is the first one of her books to switch perspective. Every other chapter shifts from Detective Moran’s perspective to a flashback of the girls at St. Kilda’s before (and eventually after) Chris’ murder.

The characters are believable and nuanced. One of the great gifts of French’s book is the subtlety you get from reading each of her words closely. There is so much insight and detail packed in that I’m sure rereading her books would be worth it. “The Secret Place” is no different and is a pleasure to read.

If you haven’t read of any French’s books, I recommend starting with “In The Woods” and continuing the series in order. You won’t regret it. If you have read any of the books, let me know in the comments.