The Secret Place
By Tana French
Series: Dublin Murder Squad #5
Publication Date: September 2, 2014
Cover image and synopsis from Goodreads:
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.
After reading In the Woods, I fell down a Tana French rabbit hole and read all of her books! I was obsessed. Each book was fantastic, with mysteries and characters that I didn’t want to put the book down and walk away from.
This is the fifth book in Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad series. Perhaps it’s because I’d just read four books in the series in a row, but unlike the other books, this one really took its time grabbing my attention and pulling me in. However, I was happy to see that Stephen Moran was the book’s protagonist, as I liked him when he showed up in Faithful Place.
I also loved that this book included a return appearance from Frank Mackey, who I think is still my favourite detective from this series.
A couple of things stood out to me about The Secret Place that set it apart from the others in this series:
• Aside from flashbacks, the story seems to take place over the course of one day. None of the other books in this series have done that, and I liked it. It added to the tension, knowing Conway and Moran had this mutual understanding of the limited time they had to solve this one.
• As discussed on the Read or Dead podcast episode discussing Tana French’s books (which inspired me to read these books), each one has a vague, faint paranormal or supernatural element. I haven’t mentioned it in other reviews because it almost felt spoiler-y, even though these are not paranormal mysteries. But I really enjoy that in the other books, it’s hinted at. In The Secret Place, though, it seems more overt, especially in the flashback chapters. And I’m not sure if I’m supposed to take it literally (do these girls really have powers?), or if it’s symbolism or something and I’m missing the point. Either way, this aspect of the story stood out to me way more than in her other books.
Once I got into this, it was yet again a book that I couldn’t put down. I loved reading about Conway and Moran working together and realising that they might make a good team.
I definitely recommend The Secret Place (along with this entire series!).