I have, I think, read all of Tana French’s books, or at least I’ve read all of her Dublin Mystery Squad books, and if I find out she’s got novels outside of that series I’ll be picking them up with a quickness. The series is interesting; each book follows a different detective in the Murder division of the Dublin police force across a single case, frequently introducing the protagonist of the next book along the way. Folks keep showing up, of course, and one of the key witnesses in this book is the daughter of the protagonist of the third book in the series.
THE SECRET PLACE is set at an exclusive girls’ boarding school in Dublin, and the entire book takes place across a single day, when a clue from a cold case ends up on Detective Stephen Moran’s desk. Moran takes the evidence to the investigating detective on the Murder squad and the story heads off from there.
It’s a murder mystery, of course, so I’m not going to get into details, but what fascinated me about this book is that the detectives spend the day interrogating high school girls about a murder that took place on the school’s grounds the year before. There are eight different kids in two separate cliques that occupy the bulk of the book’s attention, and as a teacher who has spent a lot of time having to question young women about how some particular incident of bullying or meanness or boyfriend-stealing went down, I can say with some degree of authority that French captures the shifting alliances and web of lies one can run into in these circumstances perfectly. I read probably the last 300 pages of this in two big gulps last night and this morning because I didn’t want to put the book down. All of French’s previous books have been good– there’s a reason I’ve kept buying them– but this one upgrades her to “buy in hardback” status, I think.
(The other thing, by the way, is that one of the books rattling around in my head is a murder mystery– there’s a sci-fi twist to it, of course, this being me, but I was trying to read this as a writer too, to try and dissect how she does things. The book has convinced me that I should never try to write a mystery because this is too goddamned good and I can’t touch it. Frustrating to me, great for French.)
At any rate, this is the first entry on the shortlist for 2016’s best new reads. You should check it out.