BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

The Secret Place [Dublin Murder Squad 5] by Tana French

Secret Place“One road and two extra-high walls” separate St. Kilda’s and St. Colm’s, two privileged, private schools for girls and boys, respectively. Christopher Harper, 16, of St. Colm’s is found dead on the grounds of St. Kilda’s. Over the next year, his murder remains unsolved …

And then tacked up on “The Secret Place” – a noticeboard at St. Kilda’s where girls can “express emotions that they don’t feel comfortable expressing elsewhere” – is a card with a picture of Chris and the words, “I know who killed him.” Holly Mackey decides to bring the card to Detective Stephen Moran.

Moran and the case’s original lead detective Antoinette Conway show up at St. Kilda’s, and are quickly able to narrow their suspect pool to eight girls – two tight foursomes – who could have tacked up the card. Holly, Julia, Rebecca, and Selena are the independents, sure of themselves and each other. Joanne leads the other four, wielding more fear than friendship over Gemma, Orla, and Alison; Holly and her mates dismissively refer to Joanne’s mean teens as the Daleks (inspired by the mutant extraterrestrials bent on universal domination from television’s Doctor Who). The rivals harbor plenty of grudges, jealousies, and, of course, secrets from each other – especially when a gorgeous, popular, manipulative boy is involved. Over the course of a single day, Moran and Conway manage to find whodunnit.

For a heart-thumping, moving target sort of brain-tickling read, Secret will undoubtedly satisfy. The reveal is cleverly exposed in alternating chapters: as Moran and Conway’s challenging day unfolds, the girls’ backstory is dovetailed in between, eerily announcing Chris’s impending death via countdown – “He has eight months and two weeks left to live … He has two months and three weeks left to live … Chris Harper had two weeks left to live” … you get the gist.

Even if you recognize the murderer long before the confession, finding out the how and why will keep you turning those pages (or headset stuck in the ears if you choose to go aural – the chilling Irish lilts of Stephen Hogan and Lara Hutchinson are definitely recommended). For the full experience, however, you’ll be needing the detailed history that only reading the Dublin Murder Squad series in order can provide. You need The Likeness to first meet Holly’s father and why that’s important, Faithful Place to know why Holly chooses to take the card to Moran and only Moran, and Broken Harbor to understand why Daddy Mackey’s reference to Kennedy near book’s end is such betrayal. If you’re gonna solve a crime, you’re gonna need all the details, right?

From book to book, creator Tana French pushes a former supporting character into the latest spotlight and does quite the number on what you thought you knew. That character-morphing schtick is a reminder every time about the importance of perspective – not just in solving cold cases, but in managing real lives, as well. Next up? I’m predicting we’ll be getting to know just why Conway’s “an uppity ball-breaking humourless” you-know-what. Can’t wait!

Readers: Adult

Published: 2014


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