The Secret Place (Dublin Murder Squad Series #5)by Tana French
“An absolutely mesmerizing read. . . . Tana French is simply this: a truly great writer.” —Gillian Flynn
Detective Stephen Moran has been waiting for his chance to join Dublin’s Murder Squad when sixteen-year-old Holly Mackey arrives in his office with a photo of a popular boy whose body was found at a girls’ boarding school/b>… See more details below
“An absolutely mesmerizing read. . . . Tana French is simply this: a truly great writer.” —Gillian Flynn
Detective Stephen Moran has been waiting for his chance to join Dublin’s Murder Squad when sixteen-year-old Holly Mackey arrives in his office with a photo of a popular boy whose body was found at a girls’ boarding school a year earlier. The photo had been posted at “The Secret Place,” the school’s anonymous gossip board, and the caption says “I KNOW WHO KILLED HIM.” Stephen joins with Detective Antoinette Conway to reopen the case—beneath the watchful eye of Holly’s father, fellow detective Frank Mackey. With the clues leading back to Holly’s close-knit group of friends, to their rival clique, and to the tangle of relationships that bound them all to the murdered boy, the private underworld of teenage girls turns out to be more mysterious and more dangerous than the detectives imagined.
In French’s mesmerizing fifth Dublin Murder Squad mystery (after 2012’s Broken Harbor), Det. Stephen Moran, who works in the cold-case unit, is biding his time until he can make the Murder Squad. When 16-year-old Holly Mackey, a colleague’s daughter, shows up with a clue to an old crime, Moran sees his chance. A student at St. Kilda’s boarding school, Holly vividly remembers the previous year’s murder of Chris Harper, a popular teen from Colm’s, the neighboring boys’ school. From the St. Kilda’s personal notice board known as the Secret Place, Holly brings Moran a photo of Chris with the words “I know who killed him” pasted across his chest. Moran joins forces with the murder squad’s feisty Det. Antoinette Conway, and the pair visit the school, setting off a chain of events that ensnares Holly and her three best mates. French stealthily spins a web of teenage secrets with a very adult crime at the center. Agent: Darley Anderson, Darley Anderson Literary, TV & Film Agency. (Sept.)
“a book full of giddy, slangy, devious schoolgirls who cannot be trusted about anything, at least not on the first, second, third or fourth rounds of questioning...Part of this book’s trickiness is its way of letting characters hide the truth behind the smoke screen of language and let both readers and investigators gradually figure out who is lying.”
— Janet Maslin, The New York Times
“There are echoes of Leopold and Loeb and Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, but the language and landscape are unmistakably French’s, as is the way she excavates the past to illuminate the present.”
“Terrific—terrifying, amazing, and the prose is incandescent.”
“Tana French is irrefutably one of the best crime fiction writers out there…[The Secret Place is] dizzyingly addictive…don’t miss this one.”
—The Associated Press
“clever and crude and vulgar and vicious in one breath and deeply, profoundly tragic in the next.”
—Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times Book Review
“French is such a gorgeous writer: She’s a poet of mood and a master builder of plots . . . The Secret Place is another eerie triumph for French.”
—Maureen Corrigan, The Washington Post
“French pegs each [character] with cold, cruel precision, one by one, like a knife thrower popping balloons…it makes the world of The Secret Place pop into prickly-sharp focus and full color.”
— Lev Grossman, Time
“The Secret Place will keep you up all night.”
“The Secret Place may be French’s best novel yet and that’s saying something. She’s that good.”
—The New York Daily News
“rendered vividly, with sharp dialogue and finely observed detail.”
—The Wall Street Journal
“Gone Girl fans will revel in this enthralling thriller.”
“[Tana French’s] mysteries are less procedurals and more thoughtful, smart, stunningly clever and well-written literary yarns.”
“A twisting, teasing, and tense murder mystery that, while impressive in the matter of whodunit, soars on the psychological insights of whydunit. The Secret Place rips you to shreds, too, but in all the right ways. While channeling teens and cops alike, Tana French has – OMG, like, totes, amazeball – written a novel that seems all but certain to be among the best mysteries of the year”
—The Christian Science Monitor
“The Secret Place is Tana French’s latest extraordinary procedural… French’s plots are inventive and her prose is elegant, but she’s always been more interested in character development. Here, her steely gaze brilliantly nails the baffled and baffling emotions of teenagers on the verge of adulthood.”
—The Seattle Times
—The Boston Globe
“The Secret Place is an absorbing take on a hot subgenre by one of our most skillful suspense novelists.”
“[Tana French] simply nails it…I just could not put it down!”
“The Secret Place simmers and seethes with skillfully crafted suspense, and French's prose often shines with beauty. But her strongest point is her characters, who are sharply observed and layered into complex and surprising people, revealed both in the wild memories of the flashback sequences and the crushing pressure of the interrogations in the present.”
—Tampa Bay Times
“If you’re a thriller fan and haven’t discovered the wonders of Tana French, her latest, The Secret Place, will surely get you hooked, and by hooked, we mean feverishly reading till the wee hours… An exceptional thriller. Be prepared — but the ride will be worth it.”
—Dallas Morning News
“Mesmerizing…French stealthily spins a web of teenage secrets with a very adult crime at the center.”
—Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
“Complex characters and a vivid sense of place are at the heart of French’s literary success…”
—Booklist (Starred Review)
“[Tana French] has few peers in her combination of literary stylishness and intricate, clockwork plotting… Beyond the murder mystery, which leaves the reader in suspense throughout, the novel explores the mysteries of friendship, loyalty and betrayal, not only among adolescents, but within the police force as well. Everyone is this meticulously crafted novel might be playing—or being played by—everyone else.”
—Kirkus (Starred Review)
“Tana French expertly lays bare the striations of age, class and gender that keep people apart while making them need each other more. With carefully crafted characters and motives, French not only makes a boarding school murder seem plausible, she makes the reader wonder how teenagers could ever live in such close quarters without doing each other grievous bodily harm.”
—Shelf Awareness (Starred Review)
A year after the body of swoon-worthy Chris Harper was dumped at St. Kilda's, a girls' school in a Dublin suburb, student Holly Mackey gives Det. Stephen Moran a photo of Chris she's found with the words "I know who killed him" inscribed on the back. From the multi-award-winning and New York Times best-selling French.
A hint of the supernatural spices the latest from a mystery master as two detectives try to probe the secrets teenage girls keep—and the lies they tell—after murder at a posh boarding school. The Dublin novelist (Broken Harbor, 2012, etc.) has few peers in her combination of literary stylishness and intricate, clockwork plotting. Here, French challenges herself and her readers with a narrative strategy that finds chapters alternating between two different time frames and points of view. One strand concerns four girls at exclusive St. Kilda's who are so close they vow they won't even have boyfriends. Four other girls from the school are their archrivals, more conventional and socially active. The novel pits the girls against each other almost as two gangs, with the plot pivoting on the death of a rich boy from a nearby school who had been sneaking out to see at least two of the girls. The second strand features the two detectives who spend a long day and night at the school, many months after the unsolved murder. Narrating these chapters is Stephen, a detective assigned to cold cases, who receives an unexpected visit from one of the girls, Holly, a daughter of one of Stephen's colleagues on the force, who brings a postcard she'd found on a bulletin board known as "The Secret Place" that says "I know who killed him." The ambitious Stephen, who has a history with both the girl and her father, brings the postcard to Conway, a hard-bitten female detective whose case this had been. The chapters narrated by Stephen concern their day of interrogation and investigation at the school, while the alternating ones from the girls' perspectives cover the school year leading up to the murder and its aftermath. Beyond the murder mystery, which leaves the reader in suspense throughout, the novel explores the mysteries of friendship, loyalty and betrayal, not only among adolescents, but within the police force as well. Everyone is this meticulously crafted novel might be playing—or being played by—everyone else.
Read an Excerpt
***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected proof***
Copyright © 2014 Tana French
Holly dumped her schoolbag on the floor. Hooked a thumb under her lapel, to point the crest at me. Said, ‘I go to Kilda’s now.’ And watched me.
St Kilda’s: the kind of school the likes of me aren’t supposed to have heard of. Never would have heard of, if it wasn’t for a dead young fella.
Girls’ secondary, private, leafy suburb. Nuns. A year back, two of the nuns went for an early stroll and found a boy lying in a grove of trees, in a back corner of the school grounds. At first they thought he was asleep, drunk maybe. The full-on nun-voice thunder: Young man! But he didn’t move.
Christopher Harper, sixteen, from the boys’ school one road and two extra-high walls away. Sometime during the night, someone had bashed his head in.
Enough manpower to build an office block, enough overtime to pay off mortgages, enough paper to dam a river. A dodgy janitor, handyman, something: eliminated. A classmate who’d had a punch-up with the victim: eliminated. Local scary non-nationals seen being locally scary: eliminated.
Then nothing. No more suspects, no reason why Christopher was on St Kilda’s grounds. Then less overtime, and fewer men, and more nothing. You can’t say it, not with a kid for a victim, but the case was done.
Holly pulled her lapel straight again. ‘You know about Chris Harper,’ she said. ‘Right?’
‘Right,’ I said. ‘Were you at St Kilda’s back then?’
‘Yeah. I’ve been there since first year.’
And left it at that, making me work for every step. One wrong question and she’d be gone, I’d be thrown away: got too old, another useless adult who didn’t understand. I picked carefully.
‘Are you a boarder?’
‘The last two years, yeah.’
‘Were you there the night it happened?’
‘The night Chris got killed.’
Blue flash of annoyance. No patience for pussyfooting, or anyway not from other people.
‘The night Chris got killed,’ I said. ‘Were you there?’
‘I wasn’t there there. Obviously. But I was in school, yeah.’
‘Did you see something? Hear something?’
Annoyance again, sparking hotter this time. ‘They already asked me that. The Murder detectives. They asked all of us, like, a thousand times.’
I said, ‘But you could have remembered something since. Or changed your mind about keeping something quiet.’
‘I’m not stupid. I know how this stuff works. Remember?’ She was on her toes, ready to head for the door.
Change of tack. ‘Did you know Chris?’
Holly quieted. ‘Just from around. Our schools do stuff together; you get to know people. We weren’t close, or anything, but our gangs had hung out together a bunch of times.’
‘What was he like?’
Shrug. ‘A guy.’
‘Did you like him?’
Shrug again. ‘He was there.’
I know Holly’s da, a bit. Frank Mackey, Undercover. You go at him straight, he’ll dodge and come in sideways; you go at him sideways, he’ll charge head down. I said, ‘You came here because there’s something you want me to know. I’m not going to play guessing games I can’t win. If you’re not sure you want to tell me, then go away and have a think till you are. If you’re sure now, then spit it out.’
Holly approved of that. Almost smiled again; nodded instead.
‘There’s this board,’ she said. ‘In school. A noticeboard. It’s on the top floor, across from the art room. It’s called the Secret Place. If you’ve got a secret, like if you hate your parents or you like a guy or whatever, you can put it on a card and stick it up there.’
No point asking why anyone would want to. Teenage girls: you’ll never understand.
‘Yesterday evening, me and my friends were up in the art room – we’re working on this project. I forgot my phone up there when we left, but I didn’t notice till lights-out, so I couldn’t get it then. I went up for it first thing this morning, before breakfast.’
Coming out way too pat; not a pause or a blink, not a stumble. Another girl, I’d’ve called bullshit. But Holly had practice, and she had her da; for all I knew, he took a statement every time she was late home.
‘I had a look at the board,’ Holly said. Bent to her schoolbag, flipped it open. ‘Just on my way past.’
And there it was: the hand hesitating above the green folder. The extra second when she kept her face turned down to the bag, away from me, ponytail tumbling to hide her. Not ice-cream-cool and smooth right through, after all.
Then she straightened and met my eyes again, blank-faced. Her hand came up, held out the green folder. Let go as soon as I touched it, so quick I almost let it fall.
‘This was on the board.’
The folder said ‘Holly Mackey, 4L, Social Awareness Studies’, scribbled over. Inside: clear plastic envelope. Inside that: a thumbtack, fallen down into one corner, and a piece of card.
I recognised the face faster than I’d recognised Holly’s. He had spent weeks on every front page and every TV screen, on every department bulletin.
This was a different shot. Caught turning over his shoulder against a blur of spring-green leaves, mouth opening in a laugh. Good-looking. Glossy brown hair, brushed forward boyband-style to thick dark eyebrows that sloped down at the outsides, gave him a puppydog look. Clear skin, rosy cheeks; a few freckles along the cheekbones, not a lot. A jaw that would’ve turned out strong, if there’d been time. Wide grin that crinkled his eyes and nose. A little bit cocky, a little bit sweet. Young, everything that rises green in your mind when you hear the word young. Summer romance, baby brother’s hero, cannon-fodder.
Glued below his face, across his blue T-shirt: words cut out of a book, spaced wide like a ransom note. Neat edges, snipped close.
I know who killed him
Holly watching me, silent.
Meet the Author
TANA FRENCH grew up in Ireland, Italy, the United States, and Malawi. She lives in Dublin with her husband and two daughters.
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Until I’d navigated the shoals of Irish teen speak in SKIPPY DIES by Paul Murray, I might have been dismissive of the enormous skill it takes to recreate the speech patterns of a dozen teens. By now I am inoculated against scorn for the abbreviations and <em>slangerizing</em> of words that compose ordinary conversation, and parse much more quickly now. Tana French’s sleight of hand places in parallel the confusing world of just-awakening teens alongside squads of police learning their craft in the harsh and unforgiving world of crime. By juxtaposing the two groups, we see the seeds of the men and women the teens will become. St. Kilda’s Girl School and St. Colm’s Boy’s School are just across the way from one another, and the boarders at each mix at dances or in the town shopping arcade called the “Court.” They try on their adult selves like clothes at the thrift shop—delighting and discarding with snide remarks and zings of pleasure. French slowly unfurls her story, showing us how teens so close to the right answer in the test that is life can actually get the wrong result. It is agonizing to share in the desperation of lovely, lonely girls seeking a closeness together they all feel but cannot preserve. French creates marvelously complex and fully realized girls, boys, cops, but one stands out: Holly Mackey, daughter of Frank Mackey, the detective introduced in FAITHFUL PLACE. Holly is sixteen with a mind like a steel trap. One can’t wait to see what she will become. Two detectives, Antoinette Conway of the Murder Squad and Stephen Moran of Cold Cases, work together for a day and a night on the year-old death of one of the Colm boys. Loners both, they approach the case from different directions. Antoinette takes a flashy MG to the tony school to “Get the respect.” Stephen would prefer to drive “an old Polo, too many miles, too many layers of paint not quite hiding the dings. You come in playing low man on the totem, you get people off guard.” Antoinette faces criticism and office taunts straight on, with hostility. Stephen instead sidesteps the sarcasm and, joshing back, lowers the tension while awaiting his moment to outshine the club boys. Detective Frank Mackey, both admired as well as feared, makes an appearance during the investigation and suggests the younger cops “go along [with their lesser colleagues] to get along.” Both reject his advice and earn his grudging respect. This may be French’s point after all: one must cleave to the notion there is something you care about more than the adulation of crowds. There may not be as much wisdom as needed in crowds after all. French involves us completely with the subterfuges of the young folk in the book. We know how teens are: smart, secretive, seductive in what they choose to share. But we also know they are not as clever as they think they are, and they cannot outrun the ghost of youth. I listened to the audio of this book alongside the paper copy. Stephen Hogan and Lara Hutchinson alternated reading and though the narrative shifted from the year-old lead-up to the murder and the current investigation, points of view were capably interleaved. I was rapt for the duration of this stellar mystery.
Huge disappointment from a favorite author. Repetitive and trite. Couldn't make up it's mind whether it was a mystery or a thriller - plus some sill supernatural elements that went nowhere. What was she thinking?
Tana French has written some excellent books in the Dublin Murder Squad Series and I highly recommend that the reader who has not read her before start at the beginning of the series. This book is somewhat disappointing as it doesn't go into the details of the Dublin Squad as the other books did. However, Tana French writes beautifully and allows to experience both the emotions and environment of her characters.
I have read all of the other books in the series and I couldn't get past the first 100 pages of this one. Perhaps this novel is intended for the young adult genre, I wish I would have known that prior to purchasing it.
I have loved all of Tana French's novels, but this one has been my favorite yet. She captured the heightened state of adolescence beautifully, and again imbued her landscapes with a mystical quality. Wonderful.
I was almost scared to read it as her last one left me pretty depressed. From the characters to the mystery, this book was exceptional-kept me guessing the whole way through! Great read!
I found it interesting to hear the teenage girl side of the story. The way they told the tale and how their conversations went made me think back to my days in school. How I thought I knew my friends so well and that we told each other everything, then the rumors and gossip would start. I enjoyed that there were two groups, the popular better than everyone else and the wierdo’s. It was entertaining watching them place the blame on each other all while not really knowing who the actual killer was. Throughout the story I had many theories as to who the actual killer was. Tana French did an excellent job at keeping me guessing and not truly giving away the real killer until last part of the story. As my first Dublin Murder Squad book I was not familiar with the characters, but this did not slow down my reading and hinder my enjoyment of the story. It was nice that I could just pick up the book and read without having to learn the background of every character and the history of their relationships. I will be looking for more of this series and certainly checking out the past books. A good mystery is hard to find and I believe this is one of the best I have read in quite a while.
Like,you know, like how many f*ing times can you like you know use the f word? Like, you know, is this, like you know, how teenage girls like you know f*ing talk? Normally I enjoy reading author Tana French, but this time it was a struggle to make to to the last page. I kept hoping it would, like you know, get better.
Well composed mystery.anyone with a taste for unique language will have a great time. Joy ran flow.
It's much more difficult to get into this story than her others -- a lot of names of adolescent girl characters only one of which we really know, and I found I've had to put it aside for awhile and start over again and see if I'm less confused. But, her writing is still great, and I'm thrilled at the choice of her lead female character so far.
I really like her writing. Her characters are fully developed and seem like people you know. I like the way they talk, too. This was a really engrossing read. I was hoping it would turn out this way.
Starts out interesting, bogs down in the middle, then is excruciating in boring to the end .
Sets down her supplies and puts down a foldable bed
“You forget what it was like. You'd swear on your life you never will, but year by year it falls away.” Genre: Mystery Thriller. Number of Pages: 464. Perspective: Alternating Third and First. Location: Ireland. The Secret Place follows two detectives as they investigate a murder of a teenage boy that was found on the campus of an all-girls boarding school. For a complete summary, excerpt, and reading guide, you can go here. I wasn’t sure at first how I felt about this book. It was chosen by my book club, and after discussing it further with them, I think we were mostly on the same page about the book. It is interesting and worth a read, but there are definitely some issues. First of all, I thought the main detective was creepy. He is investigating a murder and has to talk to the suspects/witnesses/potential leads at an all-girls boarding school. It is weird to be inside his head and hear his thoughts about the girls and his ploys to get them to like him. It wasn’t meant to be creepy, but that was the vibe I got from him. Secondly, there is a weird secret about one of the sets of girls revealed in the middle of the book. It was kind of a huge secret, but never really went anywhere and seemed really out of place for me. It either needed to be left out of the book completely, or it needed to be expanded upon more. Also, this book is like 99% dialogue. So if you don’t like that, this is your warning. Some of the dialogue [i.e. the teenage girls] is quite terrible. I realize the author is trying to use the lingo that teens would use, but I don’t need to keep reading “OMG amazeballs” repeatedly. To read the rest of my review, go here: http://judgingmorethanjustthecover.blogspot.com/2015/12/the-secret-place-tana-french.html
This is not even fun to read! Nothing like the other books! I did not finish it!
The police have a tough road to hoe in solving the murder of a young man, a student at a nearby boys’ school, when his body is found on the grounds of St. Kilda’s, an exclusive girls’ school in Dublin. Not only have they the murder to investigate, but they have to deal with the vagaries, conspiracies, foibles, machinations and other characteristics of teenage girls. The case falls to newly appointed murder detective Antoinette Conway and her seasoned partner, but they get nowhere close to finding out who slew Chris Harper. Then a year later, 16-year-old Holly Mackey, daughter of another detective, brings a postcard posted on a school bulletin board, purporting to indicate that someone at the school knows who the murderer is, to Stephen Moran, a cold case detective whom she knows from a previous case and “trusts.” He then brings it to Conway hoping if he helps solve the murder it will gain him entry onto the Murder Squad. Thus begins a long, intricate day at St. Kilda’s unraveling the relationships and events at the school. The plot unfolds in two ways. Chapters are interspersed with what is going on in the present with the actual going on in the past. It is interesting to follow what happens juxtaposed with the clues discovered by the detectives as they proceed in interviewing the girls. The author is well-known for the quality of her writing, and it is quite evident in this novel which, while fascinating and well-written, is a slow read, but richly deserves to be read, and is recommended.
I listened to this in an audio book. Those are many many hours of my life I'll never get back.