Sunday, October 11, 2015


Tana French

            In The Secret Place, Tana French gives us an intimate look at the inner workings of an Irish girls private Catholic school, St. Kilda’s. The school has a Secret Place, a place where the girls can anonymously post private thoughts or secrets.

            Holly Mackey, daughter of Detective Frank Mackey, is a student at the school. She visits Stephen Moran, a detective whom she knows from a previous case, and brings him a post from the Secret Place that involves the unsolved murder of a boy that took place on the school grounds the year before. Moran, who would like the chance to join Dublin’s Murder Squad, takes the post to the detective who had been in charge of the unsolved case, Antoinette Conway. They join forces and take the post back to St. Kilda’s, where their investigation leads them in surprising directions.

            Although I listened to the audio version of this book, it is clear to me that The Secret Place is well written. We are not “told” about St. Kilda’s and do not “learn” about the murder (or figure out who is the murderer) as an outside observer. Instead, we acquire this knowledge as French has us live it, from the inside. The writing alternates between the investigation in the present and the events in the past that led up to the murder.

            The plot unfolds in a straight line rather than the twisting and turning road found in the plots of many mysteries. Nonetheless, there is so much complexity built, layered, on top of complexity. The plot begins looking as if it is a simple country lane. Suddenly, we find ourselves standing on a road that has become paved, has had lanes added, has become a major thoroughfare.

            The Secret Place is compelling. It draws you in and ferries you along this unpredictable highway. Once begun, however, secrets start unraveling.


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