The Secret Place by Tana French is the fifth in the Dublin Murder Squad series. It is the first book by French that I’ve read so I don’t know a thing about the first four books in the series. This is one of the things that immediately made me like the novel–that I was immediately sucked in to the investigation taking place at St. Kilda’s School and I didn’t feel like I was four books behind. The main detectives are Moran and Conway and I don’t even know if either of them were involved in the other books.
It doesn’t matter, and that’s what is important in making a good story.
Although the switches between “in the moment” investigation scenes and “what happened then” scenes to explain the purpose of the investigation can be confusing, in part because the “in the moment” scenes are told in first person and the flashbacks are in third person, the story is easy enough to follow.
Over a year ago, a boy from the nearby boys’ school was killed on the grounds of St. Kilda’s, a girls’ school. Detective Conway led the original investigation and came up empty in terms of the murderer. Now, someone has posted a card on The Secret Place, a bulletin board meant to stop bullying at St. Kilda’s saying she knows what happened to the boy. Detective Moran comes in then, from some past association with the girl who brings it in (and maybe their story is one of the previous books), and he wants a promotion to Murder Squad, so he teams with Conway to figure out not only who posted the card but also who killed the boy.
The fact that there are eight girls the detectives count as possible suspects or witnesses could have made it very confusing but French handled the large cast brilliantly. Each girl has a unique personality and a reader can’t help but see a handful of reasons each of them might have killed the boy. My opinion of who posted the card changed every time I finished a new “in the moment” scene. My opinion of who killed the boy changed just as often, if not more so. And the girl I held onto as my guilty one for the longest was wrong in the end.
I loved the twist that made me wrong.
French is so good at keeping the pages turning. I held on to my Kindle while I was making dinner because I didn’t want to not know what turn the story would take next.
The unsung shining star of the story, though, is Moran. It was so interesting to see how a woman wrote a man interviewing eight teenage girls. There wasn’t a moment of disbelief in the whole of the thing.
And yeah, I want to read more of the Dublin Murder Squad series now.
(I received a copy of The Secret Place from NetGalley in exchange for an honest and original review. This review will be cross-posted on my blog, my Goodreads account, and on NetGalley.)