Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Julie's Review: The Secret Place

Author: Tana French
Series: Dublin Murder Squad
Publication Date: September 2, 2014
Publisher: Viking
Pages: 464
Obtained: publisher
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction, Mystery, Crime
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: A taut mystery that has other great elements
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab!
Summary: The photo on the card shows a boy who was found murdered, a year ago, in the grounds of a girls boarding school in the leafy suburbs of Dublin. The caption says I KNOW WHO KILLED HIM. Detective Stephen Moran has been waiting for his chance to get a foot in the door of Dublins Murder Squad—and one morning, sixteen-yearold Holly Mackey brings him this photo. “The Secret Place,” a board where the girls at St Kildas School can pin up their secrets anonymously, is normally a mishmash of gossip and covert cruelty, but today someone has used it to reignite the stalled investigation into the murder of handsome, popular Chris Harper. Stephen joins forces with the abrasive Detective Antoinette Conway to find out who and why. But everything they find leads them back to Hollys group of close-knit friends and their fierce enemies, a rival clique—and to the tangled web of relationships that bound all the girls to Chris Harper. Every step in their direction turns up the pressure. Antoinette Conway is already suspicious of Stephens links to the Mackey family. St Kildas will go a long way to keep murder outside their walls. Hollys father, Detective Frank Mackey, is circling, ready to pounce if any of the new evidence points towards his daughter. And the private underworld of teenage girls can be more mysterious and more dangerous than either of the detectives imagined. The Secret Place is a powerful, haunting exploration of friendship and loyalty, and a gripping addition to the Dublin Murder Squad series. ~powells.com

Review: So I admit, I have 2 Tana French books on my back list to read and I will get to them, but I couldn't wait to read The Secret Place. Ms. French is one of those writers that pulls you in with the mystery but you end up wanting to know more about the characters than "who dunnit".

In this novel, Ms. French explores 2 highly secretive populations: private schools and teenage girls. Teenage girls are vicious. I mean I remember being mean, but girls these days take it to a whole new level..seriously. I have a 9 year old and I'm dreading it. Private schools are no picnic either because of the affluence that usually accompanies these kids and all being under one roof, it makes for a powder keg waiting to explode.  So you put these two together and  BAM!, you have a fantastic setting.

As always, she brings a character from one of her previous novels and focuses the story on them as well. In this case, it's Detective Stephen Moran. He's in the Cold Case division and would love to get a plum spot in Murder. So when Holly Mackey brings him a clue in a year old murder, he jumps at his chance. He knows that Antoinette Conway isn't going to be easy to gain trust but he's willing to try.

Ms. French never rushes the story, so the reader has to be willing to let her slowly unravel the tale at her pace. She is also one of those authors that you need to read every single word or you will definitely miss something. She understands the nuances of her characters and is good at throwing some red herrings in the mix.

While I might not have agreed with Holly and her friends actions, there is no doubt that is was done out of love, protection and loyalty, which was refreshing to read. These girls, while still young, understand what friendship means. They aren't flighty with their loyalty and devotion. They are each others backbone. Like any friendships though, they don't know everything and this is where all the trouble begins.

I definitely liked the play between Conway and Stephen. She's looking to trust him but doesn't know if she can and he needs her to get into Murder Squad. Just as they were gaining trust with each other, in walks Frank Mackey to throw it all out of whack. That Frank Mackey knows exactly how to mess with people's heads. Even when they know it's exactly what he's good at doing.

The Secret Place is much more than a murder mystery, it's a study in human behavior when emotions come into play. If you are fan of Ms. French's then this is one not to be missed. If you like murder mysteries that are well thought out and not necessarily action-packed, then this one is for you too.

I'm fairly certain that I can read at least one of her other books on my shelf before she comes out with her next novel and that's my goal.



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