The Secret Place – Tana French

by on January 7th, 2015
The Secret Place – Tana French Cover Image

Teenager Holly Mackey (daughter of a Detective featured in French’s previous detective novels) is living and studying at an all-girls boarding school outside of Dublin, Ireland. The administrator of the school posted a notice board where students can anonymously leave notes called, “the secret place”.  The novel opens with her having discovered a note saying, “I know who killed him.” She understands it refers to the unsolved murder of a student from the nearby all-boys school whose body was found on the grounds the previous year. She takes the note to the only cop she trusts, cold case Detective Stephen Moran. He wants a promotion to the murder squad and is savvy enough to know he can approach the newly partner-less, gruff Detective Antoinette Conway and hope to impress.

The story is told mostly from the Detective’s point of view with chapters interspersed following the back-story of Holly and her friends’ experiences at the school the prior year. The solve happens over the course of a day of intensive interviewing at the school; the Detectives’ frustration and desperation for a collar ends up creating a locked-room mystery vibe that can feel quite suffocating. Since most of the book is devoted to the testimony of independent teenagers (e.g. puberty, rebellion, in-fighting, and inherent distrust of adults) you soon find yourself suspecting everyone and wondering if these cops should just give up.

French’s books are always extremely detailed and, since you’ve the Detective’s point of view, you get the feeling that you’re meant to be taking good notes in order to solve this. There’s generally a foreboding feel, sometimes hinted as supernatural but often manifested as unease about every character’s motives. Her stories are dark and meticulously plotted, they lean towards police procedural rather than the more typical bestseller suspense.

One Response to “The Secret Place – Tana French”

  1. Susan Craig says:

    Loved this book! I agree French’s books fall into the police procedural category, but they are very suspenseful and her character development is great.

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