May 16, 2016
The Secret Place
The Secret Place by Tana French
Dublin Murder Squad Mysteries
2014 Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group
Read by Stephen Hogan and Lara Hutchinson
Finished on January 22, 2016
Rating: 2/5 (Fair)
The photo on the card shows a boy who was found murdered, a year ago, on 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 Dublin’s Murder Squad—and one morning, sixteen-year-old Holly Mackey brings him this photo. “The Secret Place,” a board where the girls at St. Kilda’s 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 discover leads them back to Holly’s close-knit group of 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 Stephen’s links to the Mackey family. St. Kilda’s will go a long way to keep murder outside their walls. Holly’s father, Detective Frank Mackey, is circling, ready to pounce if any of the new evidence points toward 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.
I'm a big fan of Tana French's mysteries, having read everything she's published, starting with her first, In the Woods, which my book club read back in 2009. With each new book, I grew more and more fond of French's style and characters, looking forward to each new group of detectives. Typically, the new lead detective has had a minor role in the previous book, so it's fun to get to know more about them in the latest installment of the Dublin Murder Squad series.
My favorite book of French's is constantly changing with each new release; the latest always just a little bit better than the previous book. So why wasn't I chomping at the bit to read The Secret Place when it was released in 2014? Waiting to read some reviews from fellow bloggers, and not really hearing any positive remarks from friends and co-workers, I held off until early this year. I started with the audio and couldn't get interested, eventually calling it quits. After a few weeks, I decided to give it another chance and picked up the print edition. I finished, in spite of my overall dissatisfaction. There were too many unanswered questions about the supernatural aspect of the mystery (an on-going theme in all of French's books) and I didn't like either of the detectives or any of the eight girls. Also, the alternating time periods were confusing and didn't flow well, especially when listening to the audio book.
Bleh. Definitely my least favorite of all of Tana French's books.