Summary and book reviews of The Secret Place by Tana French

The Secret Place

A Dublin Murder Squad Novel

by Tana French

The Secret Place by Tana French
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Sep 2014, 464 pages
    Paperback:
    Aug 2015, 464 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs

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About this Book

Book Summary

The sensational new novel from "one of the most talented crime writers alive" (The Washington Post)

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 says I 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.

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...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Writing realistic teenagers is a challenge for even the most talented author. Not only does French accomplish this perfectly but she establishes a separate personality for each, all completely convincing. Additionally, the interaction between the individual members of the cliques and the dynamics between the two groups is so authentic that one wonders if French snuck a tape recorder into a girls' school to research the novel.   (Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).

Full Review (739 words).

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Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. French stealthily spins a web of teenage secrets with a very adult crime at the center.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. 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.

The Mail on Sunday (UK)

French is one of the most consistently exciting crime novelists working today. The Secret Place may be her most ambitious book yet ... completely riveting. French offers a chilling portrait of the ways in which teenage friendships can overrule any conventional morality.

Sunday Independent (UK)

Tana French is now the undisputed queen of Irish crime fiction ... her books transcend genre. Her prose is "literary fiction", her plots are intricate, her characters and dialogue compellingly real.

The Sunday Express (UK)

French's pitch-perfect prose nails teenage lives with uncanny precision and the result is that rare beast, a literary page turner.

The Observer (UK)

She's a seriously talented writer and I love her Dublin Murder Squad series. I've been eagerly awaiting this one for ages

Author Blurb Harlan Coben
I've been enthusiastically telling everyone who will listen to read Tana French

Author Blurb Sophie Hannah, bestselling author of The Carrier
Tana French does better than almost any living crime writer is create suspense. She makes you feel as if you're the detective, and your whole future career, not to mention your mental equilibrium, depends upon working out the solution to the puzzle. The Secret Place is another nail-biting ordeal of mysteriousness that will have readers frantically turning pages in their eagerness to discover the truth.

Author Blurb Kate Mosse, bestselling author of Labyrinth
A wonderfully tender and savage thriller about loyalty, teenage friendship and first loves. Gripping and ingenious

Author Blurb Stephen King, No. 1 bestselling author
It's terrific - terrifying, amazing, and the prose is incandescent

Author Blurb Gillian Flynn, author of Gone Girl
Prepare to be hooked by one of the stand-out books of the year. Fabulous An absolutely mesmerizing read

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

Boarding Schools in the UK

The Secret Place is set on the grounds of an Irish boarding school, an educational institution where children live on campus while they attend classes.

The King's School in Canterbury Boarding schools have a rich history in Ireland and neighboring UK (The Republic of Ireland was part of the UK through the 19th century and up to 1922). It is believed The King's School in Canterbury was the world's first true boarding institution, where a monastery school was established in 597 CE. Winchester College founded by Bishop William of Wykeham in 1382 CE and Oswestry School founded by David Holbache in 1407 CE are the oldest boarding schools in continuous operation.

Approximately 90,000 children attend a boarding school each year in the UK, which currently has ...

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