Excerpt from The Secret Place by Tana French, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Secret Place

A Dublin Murder Squad Novel

by Tana French

The Secret Place by Tana French X
The Secret Place by Tana French
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2014, 464 pages

    Paperback:
    Aug 2015, 464 pages

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Excerpt
The Secret Place

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.'

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From The Secret Place by Tana French. Reprinted by arrangement with Viking, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © Tana French, 2014.

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