The Secret Place by Tana French
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In this "dizzyingly addictive"* novel, Detective Stephen Moran has been waiting for his chance to join Dublin’s Murder Squad when sixteen-year-old Holly Mackey arrives in his office with a photo of a popular boy whose body was found at a girls’ boarding school a year earlier. The photo had been posted at “The Secret Place,” the school’s anonymous gossip board, and the caption says “I KNOW WHO KILLED HIM.” Stephen joins with Detective Antoinette Conway to reopen the case—beneath the watchful eye of Holly’s father, fellow detective Frank Mackey. With the clues leading back to Holly’s close-knit group of friends, to their rival clique, and to the tangle of relationships that bound them all to the murdered boy, the private underworld of teenage girls turns out to be more mysterious and more dangerous than the detectives imagined.
Review by Brittany:
I am a long-standing fan of French's Dublin Murder Squad series, and this installment didn't disappoint.
The entire book takes place over one day, adding snippets of the girls' lives leading up to the day that Chris Harper died, with Moran and Conway working to piece together a murder that happened a year ago. When new evidence comes in, they head out to Kilda's, the boarding school where Chris Harper's body was found a year before. At the time, minimal progress was made, and the crime was left unsolved. Now, Conway and Moran are working together, interrogating the same group of girls who were interrogated before. They slowly start to realize that, a year ago, these girls were keeping some secrets very close to the chest.
I love the way that French wrote these teenage girls. They are all around 16 years old, a tough age where it's all cat-fights and sticking close to your best friends. French encapsulates this feeling exactly, setting all the girls up to fight with their "enemies" and constantly use the murder investigation as a way to give them grief. What better way to get back at someone you don't like than to throw some suspicion over them for murder?
I enjoyed watching the partnership between Moran and Conway build throughout the daylong investigation. They give each other little jabs every now and then but are also able to bounce ideas off of one another to try to get to the bottom of what exactly is happening in the school. When Mackey shows up and tries to shake them up, it's a no go - these two are well teamed up.
The climax of the novel is well done. I felt surprised enough by the ending to appreciate it, but no so surprised that it felt outside the realm of possibility. There's a certain gritty, dark feeling to all of French's novels that really appeals to me, and this one had that same feeling that I crave whenever I pick up one of hers. I loved this book and think it makes a great addition to the series.
"This fucking place. Trips you up every time you turn around. Whatever you do, turns out it was the wrong call."
Fair play to teenage girls; I'd never have been able for it.
She was right; course she was. You don't get a second first time.
Be scared you're fat, be scared your boobs are too big and be scared they're too small. Be scared to walk on your own, specially anywhere quiet enough that you can hear yourself think. Be scared of wearing the wrong stuff, saying the wrong thing, having a stupid laugh, being uncool. Be scared of guys not fancying you; be scared of guys, they're animals, rabid, can't stop themselves. Be scared of girls, they're all vicious, they'll cut you down before you can cut them. Be scared of strangers. Be scared you won't do well enough in your exams, be scared of getting in trouble. Be scared terrified petrified that everything you are is every kind of wrong.