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The Secret Place: A Novel (Dublin Murder Squad) Paperback – August 4, 2015
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“a book full of giddy, slangy, devious schoolgirls who cannot be trusted about anything, at least not on the first, second, third or fourth rounds of questioning...Part of this book’s trickiness is its way of letting characters hide the truth behind the smoke screen of language and let both readers and investigators gradually figure out who is lying.”
— Janet Maslin, The New York Times
“There are echoes of Leopold and Loeb and Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, but the language and landscape are unmistakably French’s, as is the way she excavates the past to illuminate the present.”
“Terrific—terrifying, amazing, and the prose is incandescent.”
“Tana French is irrefutably one of the best crime fiction writers out there…[The Secret Place is] dizzyingly addictive…don’t miss this one.”
—The Associated Press*
“clever and crude and vulgar and vicious in one breath and deeply, profoundly tragic in the next.”
—Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times Book Review
“French is such a gorgeous writer: She’s a poet of mood and a master builder of plots . . . The Secret Place is another eerie triumph for French.”
—Maureen Corrigan, The Washington Post
“French pegs each [character] with cold, cruel precision, one by one, like a knife thrower popping balloons…it makes the world of The Secret Place pop into prickly-sharp focus and full color.”
— Lev Grossman, Time
“The Secret Place will keep you up all night.”
“The Secret Place may be French’s best novel yet and that’s saying something. She’s that good.”
—The New York Daily News
“rendered vividly, with sharp dialogue and finely observed detail.”
—The Wall Street Journal
“Gone Girl fans will revel in this enthralling thriller.”
“[Tana French’s] mysteries are less procedurals and more thoughtful, smart, stunningly clever and well-written literary yarns.”
“A twisting, teasing, and tense murder mystery that, while impressive in the matter of whodunit, soars on the psychological insights of whydunit. The Secret Place rips you to shreds, too, but in all the right ways. While channeling teens and cops alike, Tana French has – OMG, like, totes, amazeball – written a novel that seems all but certain to be among the best mysteries of the year”
—The Christian Science Monitor
“The Secret Place is Tana French’s latest extraordinary procedural… French’s plots are inventive and her prose is elegant, but she’s always been more interested in character development. Here, her steely gaze brilliantly nails the baffled and baffling emotions of teenagers on the verge of adulthood.”
—The Seattle Times
—The Boston Globe
“The Secret Place is an absorbing take on a hot subgenre by one of our most skillful suspense novelists.”
“[Tana French] simply nails it…I just could not put it down!”
“The Secret Place simmers and seethes with skillfully crafted suspense, and French's prose often shines with beauty. But her strongest point is her characters, who are sharply observed and layered into complex and surprising people, revealed both in the wild memories of the flashback sequences and the crushing pressure of the interrogations in the present.”
—Tampa Bay Times
“If you’re a thriller fan and haven’t discovered the wonders of Tana French, her latest, The Secret Place, will surely get you hooked, and by hooked, we mean feverishly reading till the wee hours… An exceptional thriller. Be prepared — but the ride will be worth it.”
—Dallas Morning News
“Mesmerizing…French stealthily spins a web of teenage secrets with a very adult crime at the center.”
—Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
“Complex characters and a vivid sense of place are at the heart of French’s literary success…”
—Booklist (Starred Review)
“[Tana French] has few peers in her combination of literary stylishness and intricate, clockwork plotting… Beyond the murder mystery, which leaves the reader in suspense throughout, the novel explores the mysteries of friendship, loyalty and betrayal, not only among adolescents, but within the police force as well. Everyone is this meticulously crafted novel might be playing—or being played by—everyone else.”
—Kirkus (Starred Review)
“Tana French expertly lays bare the striations of age, class and gender that keep people apart while making them need each other more. With carefully crafted characters and motives, French not only makes a boarding school murder seem plausible, she makes the reader wonder how teenagers could ever live in such close quarters without doing each other grievous bodily harm.”
—Shelf Awareness (Starred Review)
About the Author
- Publisher : Penguin Books; Reprint edition (August 4, 2015)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 480 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0143127519
- ISBN-13 : 978-0143127512
- Reading age : 18 years and up
- Item Weight : 13.6 ounces
- Dimensions : 1.1 x 5.4 x 8.4 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #82,380 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
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Top reviews from the United States
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The detective that we met before is Stephen Moran, who, when we encounter him this time, is working Cold Cases. He is contacted by Holly Mackey, Undercover chief Frank Mackey's daughter, who has information about a murder that took place a year before.
Moran met Holly when she was a nine-year-old and he and his partner were investigating a murder in Faithful Place, where Frank Mackey grew up. Holly is now a 16-year-old and she is attending St. Kilda's School. She is part of a tight-knit group of four girls.
The previous year, a handsome, popular young man from the boys' boarding school next door was killed on St. Kilda's property. His murder was investigated by Antoinette Conway and her partner but they never solved it. Now, Holly brings Stephen a card that she found posted on the school's board called "The Secret Place" where students can post things anonymously. It features a picture of the boy who was killed with the caption, "I know who killed him."
Detective Moran takes the card to the Murder Squad and meets with Detective Conway. She asks him to work with her (she no longer has a partner) and be a fresh pair of eyes on the case to investigate. The two head out to the school to interrogate students once again. The rest of the action in the book takes place on this one single day with flashbacks to the events of the year before.
Most of the investigation is focused on Holly and her three friends and a rival group of four girls. The rival group is the popular clique in the school and Holly and her friends are considered the "freaks."
Recreating the world of teenage girls and their relationships, filled with insecurities, envy, raging hormones, and occasional cruelties must have been a daunting task for French. To accomplish it, she immerses us in teenspeak replete with "OMGs," "awesomesauce," "totes amazeballs," "hello?" at the end of sarcastic statements, and every sentence seems to end with a rising inflection of a question like the stereotypical Valley Girl. Considering the rich inner lives that these girls had, the use of such trite and cliched language was a bit jarring and sometimes downright irritating.
Another thing that irritated me even more about the book was the supernatural aspect to it - the telekinetic powers that some of the girls supposedly had and the appearance of ghosts, none of which really seemed to have a point or to add anything to the plot. The ghosts might be explained by mass hysteria induced in suggestible young people, but still...
The plot was an interesting one. It followed the pattern of French's previous books in that it started ever so slowly and built tension and suspense throughout. I also liked the characters. Conway and Moran made an intriguing team. I wonder if we'll see them again. Holly and her group were a captivating group of teenagers and their relationships with their rivals and with the boys from the neighboring school made for some riveting reading. And in the latter part of the book, we again get to observe Frank Mackey do his thing which is always diverting. But.
But there was just something missing here. It wasn't really up to the high standard that French has set for herself. My initial thought was to award the book three or three-and-a-half stars, but since I don't usually do things by halves and since I am such a generous soul, I decided on four.
The story, which not only alternates between the points of view of the police and two groups of adolescent girls in the claustrophobic, mean-girl world of a boarding school but also between chronological markers, is cleverly structured. Essentially, the police investigation takes place over the course of a single day, but the section involving the girls, and the crime, arcs across many months. French is skillful in making the past collide with the present. But in the end, I found it hard to sustain an interest.
Two things struck me as particularly distracting: The introduction of the paranormal--as a strategy by the murder police and as a type of power by some of the girls--didn't seem to me to move the story along. Rather, it made me think more than once, "Oh, come on!" The other distraction was the language used to describe the ways adolescent girls experience themselves and the world--another kind of mystical "we are as blooming flowers shot through with sparks of lightning" thing. While French does a good job evoking the often-chaotic interior world of young girls, she does way too much of it in this book.
If The Secret Place was the first French book I'd read, I would never read another. But since I've been reading her work from the beginning, I can hope that this was an aberration, and that her next one will be better--more tightly written, more deeply drawn characters (and with every use of the word "totes" edited out!).
Top reviews from other countries
Overall, it was a good introduction to her writing and I have already purchased a few of the others in the Dublin Murder Squad series (those aren't on my Kindle already sadly).
I love her writing which can be so evocative and poetic in parts. However, some of it felt a little slow in terms of advancing the plot. This was balanced out by the narrative structure, which flips from current day with the police investigation that Moran and Conway are undertaking; and one year previously when the body of Chris Harper, student at neighbouring boys school, is found in the grounds of St Kilda's girls boarding school. This second timeline is told through the eyes of the girls who may, or may not, be involved in his murder.
I loved how Tana French created two friendship groups of 4 girls in each and then pitted them against one another. However, I did find it a little difficult to keep track of who was who at first. There is a section of the book where Conway and Moran interview each girl separately and this helped to straighten it out a little in my head. There were then a number of boys from the boys school and I had to keep reminding myself who was who there too!
The way Conway and Moran handle the investigation is interesting as Conway is almost seen as the enemy to the girls but her male partner, Moran, is more adept in his interview techniques to get the most out of each different personality. The dynamic between the two detectives is excellent and I look forward to reading more involving them.
The mystery kept me guessing and many nights I stayed up way to late to read 'just one more chapter'.
My main negative in this book was the inclusion of supernatural elements. Thankfully, they weren't overt enough to put me off completely, but it did detract from my enjoyment of this as a mystery/crime novel. I think I understand why they were included but, for me, the book would have been stronger without it.
A few of the reviews say that this is not French's best so I am just pleased that it gets even better from here.
The writing style is smooth, the background feels authentic, and the characterisation is superb, but the plot is only so-so, and the structure is weak.
With eight main suspects, all eight of whom are teenage girls of the same age attending the same boarding school with the same interests and the same secrets, it's difficult to keep them apart. Halfway through the book I was finally able to differentiate them and appreciate their distinct personalities. But by that time, it was too late, and I couldn't remember who had said what.
The structure is odd. It alternates between chapters from the point-of-view of the investigator after the murder happened, and chapters from the point of view of one of the eight teenage girls who are the main suspects. The structure might work but unfortunately it doesn't.
The chapters from the PoV of the investigator, a fiercely ambitions dead-cases officer who wants to get into the murder squad at almost any price, who possess brilliant people skills yet isn't social, unfold at a good pace and are a pleasure to read. But the chapters from the various girls' perspectives... they don't work. In part this is because there are simply too many changes, and the reader needs to get into the head of a different person every view pages. In part it's because the chapters are all written in the same voice, not reflecting the distinct personalities of the point-of-view characters. And most annoyingly, in each chapter theres a break of point of view when, tucked at the end of an unconnected paragraph, there's the statement 'Chris as x-number weeks to live.' Since the girls didn't know Chris was going to get murdered, they couldn't have been aware how much time was left until his murder. So this jolted me out of their point of view into a God's-view (omniscient) perspective. And in the next sentence the reader is supposed to be back inside the girl's mind, worrying about make-up, breaking curfew, secret smokes and boys.
If you're a fan of Tana French, by all means read this book. You may enjoy it. But if you're new, try one of her other books first (perhaps 'The Likeness' The Likeness: Dublin Murder Squad: 2 (Dublin Murder Squad series) ) to get an impression of what she can really do.
I really enjoyed the twin story lines and the book as a whole so much that I have now gone straight back to reread the action in chronological order
that is to say the prologue and the even numbered chapters which give the backstory and immediate aftermath of the murder from the point of view of four school-friends. and then the odd numbered chapters which give the day long re-opened murder investigation a year after the crime was committed.
I can see why the story would have annoyed some people in its style/content, but it's a good fit for me and I feel like I've got two books for the price of one.