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The Secret Place: A Novel Paperback – August 4, 2015
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An Amazon Best Book of the Month, September 2014: A fallow murder investigation is resuscitated when Holly Mackey (daughter of Frank Mackey, both last seen in Faithful Place) brings Detective Stephen Moran (Mackey’s protege in Faithful Place) a fresh clue she’s discovered at her posh girls’ school where the murder took place. Hoping this is his chance to trade Cold Cases for the Dublin Murder Squad and revive his own career, Moran finagles himself a partnership with prickly lead cop Antoinette Conway. Together the detectives try to find the truth inside the secrets, loyalties, and misdirection thrown their way by two rival groups of teenage schoolgirls. As in her previous books, just when you think you’ve solved the mystery another curious twist appears and French keeps you guessing right up until the very end. –Seira Wilson--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“an absolutely mesmerizing read.”
“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)
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Top Customer Reviews
I really didn't like the whole supernatural stuff thrown in there either - why? Made no sense! Seems like some questions were never answered - while others were answered over & over again- it's almost like the author forgot where she left off when she took a break, so just jumped back in any old place
The ending unfolded way too slowly - geez - we get it !
I'm exhausted just from the effort it took to finish this book - better luck next time!
Detective Stephen Moran works Cold Cases, but what he really wants is to transfer to the Murder Squad - “Murder is a brand on your arm, like an elite army unit’s, like a gladiator’s, saying for all your life: One of us. The finest.”
When 16-year-old Holly Mackey brings him some evidence relevant to a still-open case of a boy found murdered a year earlier on the grounds of Holly’s school, Stephen may have his chance. Holly hands him a photo that was posted on “The Secret Place” - a notice board at St. Kilda’s for the girls to put up any anonymous message they want to get out of their systems. This particular photo showed Chris Harper, the dead boy, with a caption reading “I know who killed him.”
Stephen takes the card to the Murder Squad officer in charge, Detective Antoinette Conway. Conway, as a woman, is not part of the “old boys club” of Murder, and as Stephen intuits, “every day had to be a fight” for her. She is rough and abrasive. Stephen doesn’t care - he just wants to help work the case.
Discussion: Tana French is so good it almost hurts. This book is not as fast-moving as the previous books, but allows readers to savor every bit of the author’s skill with capturing dialogue. The writing is excellent; French is expert at describing a scene so that you can see it yourself, and setting a mood so that you actually sense it, whether menace or hope or shyness or insouciance. She conveys the thoughts of the characters so well we know exactly how they feel - such as Stephen's fascination with the lifestyle of the wealthy combined with his alienation from it, his wistful admiration of the uniqueness of innocent love, and his insight that once you are an adult, the opportunity to feel like that is forever lost to you.
I could also feel the force of Conway’s defensive hostility and the reason she got that way. And the growing connection between Moran and Conway - so skillfully done! As for the teenage girls: there is no way to contain my admiration for the way French brought them to life in all their desperation and craving and hope and horror. Just outstanding!
Evaluation: I highly recommend the books by Tana French, but I understand that the audio versions, which bring out the accents and dialect in a way a written book does not, are even better. If you haven’t read any of Tana French yet, or just want to try one, I would suggest "Faithful Place" - my favorite of her books - which will introduce you to the characters you meet again in this book (although they are all perfectly fine as standalones).
The time line in this novel is not linear. One chapter deals with the time before Chris’s death and the next chapter catapults us to the present when Detectives Antoinette Conway and Stephen Moran are investigating his murder. It proceeds like this, back and forth, almost to the book’s end; you want to stay in the present but it’s useful to go back and see what happened before Chris’s death. French periodically reminds us in the former how long Chris has yet to live. In the latter, it’s about a year after Chris’s death. As a member of Dublin’s fictional murder squad, Conway worked the case to no avail at the time of his murder. In the present time, Moran has come to join Conway from his slot in the Cold Cases Squad with hopes of doing such a grand job that he’ll win a permanent position in the murder squad.
Conway and Moran focus their investigation on eight girls at St. Fulda’s, the school next to Colm. The girls live, eat, sleep and study in two groups of four; one led by Julia and the other by Joanne. Conway and Moran conduct many interviews using “good cop” and “bad cop” tactics and soon decide that one of the eight was Chris’s killer. But which one? Several girls had a budding romantic relationship with Chris, or thought they did, while other girls recognized that he was only interested in having a quick “shag.” Each of the girls had opportunity but what was the killer’s motivation?
This is the fourth book I’ve read by Tana French and one of her many writing talents comes to the fore. She is quite adept at portraying the dynamics a group whether it be insecure high school girls coping with intense peer pressure, or young adults trying to hide a crime or protect each other from suffering. In this book, the interpersonal relationships of the eight girls is quite vivid from their authentic dialogue, telephone conversations or their secretive text messages. The only negative I can offer about this book is the ending. I read the last several pages twice but it didn’t appear to have a final and full resolution.