The Secret Place (Dublin Murder Squad Series #5)

The Secret Place (Dublin Murder Squad Series #5)

by Tana French


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“An absolutely mesmerizing read. . . . Tana French is simply this: a truly great writer.” —Gillian Flynn

Read the New York Times bestseller by Tana French, author of The Witch Elm and “the most important crime novelist to emerge in the past 10 years” (The Washington Post).

A year ago a boy was found murdered at a girlsʼ boarding school, and the case was never solved. 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 the boy with the caption: “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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780143127512
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 08/04/2015
Series: Dublin Murder Squad Series , #5
Pages: 480
Sales rank: 34,896
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Tana French is also the author of In the WoodsThe LikenessFaithful PlaceBroken Harbor and The Secret Place. Her books have won awards including the Edgar, Anthony, Macavity, and Barry awards, the Los Angeles Times Award for Best Mystery/Thriller, and the Irish Book Award for Crime Fiction. She lives in Dublin with her family.

Read an Excerpt

***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected proof***
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.


Excerpted from "The Secret Place"
by .
Copyright © 2015 Tana French.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Reading Group Guide

1. What part of the author’s portrayal of adolescence rang the truest with your own experience? Of all the teenagers in the novel, which reminded you most of yourself at the age?

2. Who did you first suspect killed Chris Harper? Who did you think wrote the note? Why?

3. Detective Mackey’s sharp eye for human behavior is matched only by his determination to protect Holly. He warns Conway that Moran is ambitious, even to the point of disloyalty. Is this true?

4. Similarly, Mackey explains to Moran why Conway is so disliked by the Murder Squad. Do you believe his reasoning or is he trying to play on Moran’s fears? If you were Conway, how would you have reacted to the other detectives’ behavior?

5. There are episodes of the supernatural throughout the novel. Do you believe that Holly and her friends had magical powers? Did the students actually see Chris’s ghost? What was the dark shape that Moran noticed through the doorway?

6. The title refers to the St. Kilda’s board where the girls post their secrets, but in what other ways could it be interpreted?

7. The book’s chapters alternate between Moran and Conway’s experience solving the crime and the events leading up to the crime itself. How did this double narrative heighten your experience as a reader?

8. Moran admits, “I love beautiful; always have. I never saw why I should hate what I wish I had” (p. 31). What does he mean? Does this affect his work on the case?

9. French presents the relationship between Selena and Chris so that any of her friends’ differing perspectives on his feelings are plausible. What do Selena, Julia, Holly, and Becca each believe? Who do you agree with?

10. Would Chris Harper’s murder case have been handled differently if it had occurred in a poor Dublin neighborhood?

11. French writes that “when Holly thinks about it a long time afterwards, when things are starting to stay fixed and come into focus at last, she will think that probably there are ways you could say Marcus Wiley killed Chris Harper” (p. 95). What does she mean?

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The Secret Place 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 80 reviews.
TheReadingWriter More than 1 year ago
Until I&rsquo;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&rsquo;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&rsquo;s Girl School and St. Colm&rsquo;s Boy&rsquo;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 &ldquo;Court.&rdquo; They try on their adult selves like clothes at the thrift shop&mdash;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&rsquo;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 &ldquo;Get the respect.&rdquo; Stephen would prefer to drive &ldquo;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.&rdquo; 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 &ldquo;go along [with their lesser colleagues] to get along.&rdquo; Both reject his advice and earn his grudging respect. This may be French&rsquo;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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
 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.  
rtpana More than 1 year ago
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?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Helen78 More than 1 year ago
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.
guacamoleNYC More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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!
CharlotteLynnsReviews More than 1 year ago
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&rsquo;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.   
CMAJORME More than 1 year ago
Well composed mystery.anyone with a taste for unique language will have a great time. Joy ran flow.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is not even fun to read! Nothing like the other books! I did not finish it!
bonnieCA More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Starts out interesting, bogs down in the middle, then is excruciating in boring to the end .
17469315 More than 1 year ago
Because of two other French books which I read and liked, I bought this one. I had high hopes, and I kept hoping I would like it more as I read further, but it just didn't happen. It is long and tedious, and I didn't find the solution to be much of a surprise or really that interesting. I was disappointed.
jnmegan More than 1 year ago
The Secret Place is Tana French’s fifth entry in her fantastic Dublin Murder Squad series. Like in the previous novels, French selects one member of the squad to build a story around. This time, French concentrates the action on Stephen Moran, a new officer first introduced in her third book, Faithful Place. Moran played a pivitol role in that novel, and it provides background information about his methods and character. The earlier work also establishes his initial encounter with Frank Mackey, an MS detective who also appears here in The Secret Place. Holly, Mackey’s daughter brings an important clue to Moran who is starting out in the Cold Cases department. It involves an unsolved murder that took place a year ago at her posh private school. A boy from the school next door was found dead in the woods, but the perpetrator and a possible motive was never discovered. Moran is ambitious and leaps at the opportunity to bring the new evidence to a Murder Squad member who might vouch for him and advance his career. Unfortunately, the detective assigned to the case when it was active was Antionette Conway. She is an outcast in the Murder Squad, and her prickly demeanor and easily offended sensibilities will make working with her a challenge. Moran and Conway reopen the case and head up to St. Kilda’s school to follow up. Their investigation brings them in contact with two opposing groups of tight-knit girls who definitely know more than they admitted last year. French juxtaposes the two cliques, exploring teen friendships-some based on dominance/intimidation, and others on blind loyalty and co-dependence. It is a pretty negative and stereotypical portrayal of adolescent girls, and Conway is also not presented as the best example of a well-adjusted female. There is a different tone to The Secret Place, which is often considered to be the weakest entry in French’s otherwise successful series. Some elements stretch credulity and the character development is not as extensive as in the others. Fans accustomed to her gritty realism and deeper psychological themes may find it a bit disappointing, but French’s writing and storytelling are still more impressive than most. Her next Dublin Murder Squad book, The Trespasser, is French at her best again and not to be missed. Each Murder Squad mystery can stand alone, but the sequential reader benefits from a richer understanding of the characters, their history, and their interactions with other members of the squad. A new stand-alone work, The Witch Elm is due to be released in October 2018.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wow! Amazing job! Keep up the good work
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
DianaH-Maine More than 1 year ago
THE SECRET PLACE (a Dublin Murder Squad, Book 5) by Tana French is both a brilliant and painful book to read. It amassed so much detail and psychological insight into our eight main suspects, that it was at times overwhelming. I often reread passages or chapters in order to keep up with the sequencing. The story also went back and forth from the present to other time periods. Several characters are familiar - Holly Mackey and her detective father, Frank Mackey; as is Detective Stephen Moran. (He played a small, yet pivotal role in FAITHFUL PLACE with Mackey.) The ‘voices’ change - Detective Moran, Holly, other students at St. Kilda’s. (a very posh school in Dublin which is still reeling from the unsolved murder of Chris Harper, a St. Colm’s student, found on the grounds of St. Kilda’s a year ago.) Moran has a piece of evidence (brought to him by Holly) that could reopen and solve the case. He is paired with the very intimidating Antoinette Conway, the Murder Squad Detective still hoping for a ‘solve’ of the tragic murder. I say it was painful reading because I was appalled, dismayed and disgusted at the 8 main St. Kilda students being investigated, and their male counterparts at St. Colm’s. The language (crude talk and teenage slang), the sexting, the casual sex, the selfishness, the egos, the drama, the spitefulness, the jealousies and the complete, total disregard and disrespect for others left me bewildered, nauseous and angry. The book seethes and bubbles with maliciousness. It is a character unto itself. I generally like good coming-of-age stories and stories involving the complexities of friendship, but this one makes you want to despair of an entire generation and hurry to the bathroom before you vomit on the couch. Superbly written, intense, dramatic and suspenseful; it is a good, but very painful, read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sets down her supplies and puts down a foldable bed
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
JMTJTC More than 1 year ago
“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:
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