The Secret Place by Tana French

Cover of The Secret PlaceThe Secret Place by Tana French

Published by: Viking

Published on: September 2, 2014

Page Count: 464

Genre: Mystery

My Reading Format: Digital audiobook review copy provided by the publisher

Audiobook Published by: Penguin Audio

Narrators: Stephen Hogan and Lara Hutchinson

Audiobook Length: 20 hours 43 minutes

Available Formats: Hardcover, eBook, and Audiobook

Summary from the Publisher:

The photo on the card shows a boy who was found murdered, a year ago, on the grounds of a girls’ boarding school in the leafy suburbs of Dublin. The caption saysI KNOW WHO KILLED HIM.

Detective Stephen Moran has been waiting for his chance to get a foot in the door of Dublin’s Murder Squad—and one morning, sixteen-year-old Holly Mackey brings him this photo. “The Secret Place,” a board where the girls at St. Kilda’s School can pin up their secrets anonymously, is normally a mishmash of gossip and covert cruelty, but today someone has used it to reignite the stalled investigation into the murder of handsome, popular Chris Harper. Stephen joins forces with the abrasive Detective Antoinette Conway to find out who and why.

But everything they discover leads them back to Holly’s close-knit group of friends and their fierce enemies, a rival clique—and to the tangled web of relationships that bound all the girls to Chris Harper. Every step in their direction turns up the pressure. Antoinette Conway is already suspicious of Stephen’s links to the Mackey family. St. Kilda’s will go a long way to keep murder outside their walls. Holly’s father, Detective Frank Mackey, is circling, ready to pounce if any of the new evidence points toward his daughter. And the private underworld of teenage girls can be more mysterious and more dangerous than either of the detectives imagined.

The Secret Place is a powerful, haunting exploration of friendship and loyalty, and a gripping addition to the Dublin Murder Squad series.

My Review

In this latest edition in Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad series, Detective Steven Moran, relegated to Cold Cases, receives a visit from Frank Mackey’s daughter, Holly. She tell Moran about the bulletin board used at her exclusive boarding school to post secrets. The reason she came all the way to Moran’s desk was because she’d found a postcard pinned to the board indicating that the writer knew who killed the teenage boy who was found murdered on school grounds the year before. This evidence brings Moran to Murder, the place he really wants to work, and to Detective Antoinette Conway. Detective Conway is all business. She doesn’t come into work each day to win popularity contests. Her sole goal is to get the job done. Moran knows he has to be at the top of his game to impress her and make a case to be moved to Murder himself.

The Secret Place includes many hallmarks that are classic French: descriptions of setting that make the reader want to reach out and touch, the deep dives into the emotions and motivations of the characters that are unlike any other author I’ve read, and detectives coming to know themselves through their work. This installment also includes the social lives of teenage girls. Here French is frighteningly accurate. There are all these feelings, hormones are raging, and sophisticated in their own, immature way. Some of those feelings were so familiar. When reading this novel you realize just how little the big picture is at that age. No one can cut you like a mean girl.

I read this book via audiobook. I love reading her books that way because the accented turns of phrase are fantastic. Stephen Hogan and Lara Hutchinson worked well with the material. Hogan was excellent narrating Moran and his side of the story. Giving voice to eight teenage female characters would be a large task for any male narrator. Hogan did well. Hutchinson has a sweet, light voice. Don’t get me wrong. She can bring on the edge like the best of them, but it did take a little time for my reader’s ears to get used to. The way that this audiobook was produced with the two narrators was excellent. It could have been done well with one, but the change in voice really helped me shift to the past as was often the case when Hutchinson narrated. I would certainly choose audiobooks by either narrator again.

I love Tana French. The Secret Place is another good example of why. It reminded me in some respects of In the Woods as there was this touch of spooky power. For me this portion of the book was unresolved. While the ending to In the Woods never bothered me in the least, it was one sticking point I had with this book. Regardless, as the story progressed, I found myself wanting to stay in my car for longer and longer periods of time. There were 190 tracks to the digital audiobook I downloaded, do I even asked my husband to burn me a second copy onto CD with only the last 40 tracks so I could listen to it in the house without having to forward through over the first 150. I had to keep listening because Frank Mackey makes an appearance. Even though he was much more the Frank of The Likeness than the Frank of Faithful Place, I love him to death and I had to continue. While Faithful Place retains its spot as my favorite Tana French novel, I am right now praying to the gods who prompt Tana French to select her next character to vote Team Conway. Antoinette needs her own time in the sun.

BooktopiaAVL ~ New Discoveries

I’ve not forgotten to write about my experiences at Booktopia Asheville. It’s not because it wasn’t an amazing experience. Drafts get started and then – Squirrels! I still want to share my experiences no matter how long it takes me. Today I’m sharing about the new discoveries I made as a result. In fact, Booktopia Asheville was a weekend of new discoveries.

There were the sites:

  • Looking for the Highland Hospital and Grove Park Inn gave me the opportunity to see some of Asheville’s most beautiful views.
  • Thomas Wolfe’s house was right next door to our temporary home, the Renaissance.
  • Walking to and from restaurants and venues gave me the opportunity to do some of the best people watching I’ve ever seen in my entire life. In just one small area you can see people with hair that would make The Clash cry with pride, street performers of all stripes and abilities, groups of people with prison issued facial tattoos, and couples straight out of Steel Magnolias. Let’s not forget the tourists, like me.

There were the books:

I really enjoyed spending time at Malaprops, one of the finest Independent bookstore I’ve ever visited. It was a good thing my time there was limited over all, because by Friday evening I had to keep repeating the mantra, “I’m not going to buy any more books” to one and all in the defense of my children’s need to eat this fall. Here are the books that I bought:



While the matchbooks aren’t books, I do think they were the perfect sideline discoveries.

And then there’s my TBR:

The booksellers at Malaprops but these books on my radar during my first event of Booktopia:

  • Hawthorn & Child by Keith Ridgeway
  • End of Days by Jenny Urpenbeck (not out in the US until November 11)
  • Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell
  • Zoli by Colum McCann – this one I would have bought if my speedy smart fellow Booktopians hadn’t scooped up all of available copies first.
  • Romance is My Day Job by Patience Bloom
  • Portraits & Observations by Truman Capote
  • Woman Who Lost Her Soul by Bob Shacochis
  • Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

The author’s of Booktopia also made some great recommendations. One of the fun things about each of the author sessions (more on those in a future post) at Booktopia is that they closed with someone asking the author what two books they insist we must read right now. In some cases, authors had already mentioned other books as well for an additional bonus. Here are the author recommendations that increased my TBR:

  • E. Lockhart: And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie, Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith and White Cat by Holly Black
  • Krista Bremer: Just Mercy by Brian Stevenson, Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson, and Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward
  • Anthony Marra: The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell and To Rise Again at an Early Hour by Joshua Ferris
  • Denise Kiernan: Trinity by Jonathan Fetter-Vorm and After Visiting Friends by Michael Heney

Podcasts and Simon Savidge:

Simon and the Jennifers


Booktopia began as a retreat for Ann and Michael from the podcast Books on the Nightstand to meet and spend some good bookish time with their listeners. I suppose I should be embarrassed that I never listened to their podcast or any other before Asheville. So, when they mentioned a “special guest” named Simon Savidge, I had no clue who he was. Luckily his name is Simon and he is from the UK. That was good enough for me. On top of Savidge Reads, his (I’ve since learned) excellent book blog, he works on not one, but three podcasts. It was a thing to take a selfie with him, so Jenn and I added this to our day of selfies. Had I known this at the time, I would have had a touch of nerves going up to talk to him and ask for a picture. In this case, ignorance was bliss. Since returning home, I’ve subscribed and started listening to Books on the Nightstand, Savidge Reads, and all three of Simon’s podcasts:

The Readers

Hear… Read This!

You Wrote the Book

I am now a podcast addict. The benefit of finding out about them now is that I have plenty of listening material.

And most importantly, Literate Housewife readers!

I am not at all used to being identified in public, so I was shocked when Maureen from Missouri, Bridget from Ohio, and Amy (I’m so sorry I can’t remember where you’re from!) each came up to me on separate occasions to introduce themselves. I can’t tell you how touched I was that you each took the time to say hello. I have no idea why, but it made me so nervous. I am kicking myself for not taking pictures with you as well. You each made me so happy and I hope I didn’t disappoint you. Thank you so much for sticking around with me and this blog through thick and thin.

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