Title: The Secret Place
Author: Tana French
Publisher: Hachette Australia/Hodder & Stoughton
Publication Date: 26th August 2014
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
‘I know who killed him.’
Could these few words, posted on a notice board in an exclusive girls’ boarding school, be Detective Stephan Moran’s passport to the Murder Squad?
Moran is about to be plunged into the single most intense and nerve-shredding day of his life, investigating the story of a boy whose murder has been unsolved for a year, and a group of girls on the verge of womanhood, who all seem to have something to hide.
I thought I hated crime and murder mysteries. This book has turned that notion on its head. Part of a series, ‘The Secret Place’ could be a stand-alone book. I am actually looking forward to finding and reading the rest of Tana French’s novels – it was just so thrilling and completely intense! I am incredibly lucky to have won this copy (thanks to @HachetteAus on Twitter) and discovered another excellent genre to throw myself into!
The story is set predominantly at a prestigious girls’ boarding school, Kilda’s. It resonated very strongly with me, reminding me of my own boarding experience and making me rather nostalgic at times. The school is in Ireland, however I didn’t find that aspect too obvious, making it easy for me to insert myself into the story as an Australian. I like stories that could be set anywhere – they don’t discriminate against readers who might not know a place.
We follow two narratives – one set before the murder, depicting normal life in the school accompanied by an eerie countdown to Chris Harper’s death, the other following the investigation from Detective Moran’s perspective. It was fun flipping between the two and attempting to work out who was responsible for the murder. Occasionally I find the double narrative disorientating but it worked so very well here!
The story perfectly dissects the relationships between and within cliques at a girls’ school. While I understand its nuances might not be appreciated quite so much by someone without my experience, it engaged me thoroughly to relive that part of my life. I even started speaking like a teenage girl again while reading!
I did have one major problem with the story. French touched upon some magic group the girls had become involved in but never elaborated. It left loose ends in a story that otherwise ended neatly. However, it didn’t affect my enjoyment all that much as it wasn’t a huge part of the story.
Everyone is a suspect and it is fun to work through the schoolgirls’ many secrets on the quest to find the killer. I would recommend this book for everyone – while its subject is creepy, I think it is a good bridge into crime. Well, it was for me! I couldn’t put it down and was distracted when I was pulled away. I encourage you to read it, particularly if you enjoy crime. Not knowing the previous books in the series makes no difference!