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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.

7 Comments

  • At 2014.09.17 06:19, Sandy said:

    I’m 11 discs into this one, and would agree with everything you said. She nails the nasty teenage girl thing, and I loved seeing Scorcher again. I LOVE the narrator for Moran, but the female voice was a little too soft for me at first. I honestly don’t think this is her best work but it is sound Tana French, with all its nuances and subtleties.

    • At 2014.09.17 07:55, BermudaOnion(Kathy) said:

      Ti sent me one of her books years ago and I still haven’t read it yet. I need to get with it!

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      • At 2014.09.17 11:44, Beth Hoffman said:

        I’ve yet to read a book by Tana French, and I need to change that!

        • At 2014.09.17 16:11, Julie said:

          Faithful Place is still my favorite too. Although to be fair I need to finish The Likeness and read Broken Harbor. I too agree that it should be Antoinette next.

          • At 2014.09.19 09:46, Anne said:

            I read your review after starting the audiobook and persevered with Ms Hutchinson, but it was a tough go. Sometimes she sounded like she had marbles in her mouth and I found myself looking forward to Mr Hogan’s turn. But the story and its details (I’m at the midway point) are terrific, classic Tana French.

            • At 2014.09.19 11:46, Tina Culbertson (@Novel_Meals) said:

              I am a big fan of Tana French but don’t have the latest of her books yet. Glad to hear Frank Mackey is in this one, I liked him in Faithful Place.

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              • At 2014.10.24 15:08, trish said:

                I was going to read this, but I think I’ll do the audio instead! Interesting that your favorite book of hers is Faithful Place. My favorite is The Likeness, but Broken Harbor is a book I think about ALL THE TIME.

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