|5 out of 5 stars|
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.
So I am all caught up-to-date now and I’m ready for the new Tana French novel which comes out this summer (The Trespasser). As I have now come to expect from French, I was drawn into The Secret Place immediately.
I loved the alternating chapters (present, past), like waves driving the story along. French writes young people masterfully. Their voices seemed pitch-perfect to me, although I am far removed from the world of high-school, so I am willing to be wrong on that. I thought her phrasing of their statements, with a question mark at the end, really made me hear the up-talk that has become so common now.
It was a treat to see Frank Mackey again and to see the world through his daughter’s eyes. I appreciate how French centres each book around a different member of the Murder Squad—it keeps things fresh, unlike some series where it gets boring to be constantly accompanying the same people (Patricia Cornwell, I am looking at you!) Still, it was pleasant to have this book circle around to visit with Frank again.
Also liked that French pulled such a peripheral character, Stephen Moran, from Faithful Place to be the lead in this one. A wanna-be Murder Squad member, grabbing his chance. He and Holly Mackie have both matured considerably since that time.
I wonder if Ms. French will ever return to any of her previous narrators? I’d love to see how some of them are getting along now and what murder cases they are solving. But as long as she keeps writing, I’ll keep reading.