Monday, July 25, 2016

The Secret Place by Tana French

Image result for the secret place tana french  The Secret Place is the fifth book in Tana French's Dublin Murder Squad series and it's so good! Detective Stephen Moran is toiling away on cold cases waiting for his chance to join the murder's squad. That chance appears in the form of sixteen-year-old Holly Mackey. A student at the girls boarding school St. Kilda's, Holly arrives at the police station with a card she found tacked on her school's Secret Place, which is basically a bulletin board where students can post anonymous confessions and other secrets. Moran couldn't be more thrilled.

A year earlier the body of Chris Harper, a boy from St. Kilda's brother school was found on the grounds of St. Kilda. His murder remained unsolved despite the efforts of Detective Antoinette Conway and her former partner. The anonymous card Holly brings is a photo of Chris with a note purporting to know what really happened to him. Moran practically skips into Conway's office with the photo. Solving this case could be his ticket to the murder squad.

Conway and Moran quickly narrow their suspects down to eight girls: Holly and her friends Julia, Rebecca and Selena; along with four other girls, Joanne, Gemma, Orla, and Allison. The entire novel takes place over ten to twelve hours with Conway and Moran trying to navigate their way through the complicated world of teenage girlhood and figure what happened that might have caused one or more of these girls to kill Chris Harper.
A good book tells a story. A great book goes beyond that and says something about some aspect of the human condition while still telling a good story. French does that here. Holly and her friends are considered freaks and weirdos. Why? Because they dare to decide for themselves who they are rather than letting others decide for them. When Rebecca wears jeans to the Valentine's Day dance, for example, people lose their shit! The way Rebecca sees it she likes dancing but didn't feel like wearing a dress and wasn't trying to impress any of the boys so why not wear what she's comfortable in?
Moran puts it like this:  
"It took me till then to put my finger on it, what was different about them, or some of it. This: Joanne and all hers were what they thought I wanted them to be. What they thought guys wanted wanted them to be, grown-ups wanted them to be, the world wanted them to be. Holly's lot were what they were.  When they played thick or smart-arsed or demure, it was what they wanted to play. For their reasons, not mine."
Repeatedly other people remark in various ways that Holly, Rebecca, Julia and Selena need to learn their place; they can't just do what they want. The world doesn't work that way. At its core The Secret Place is about female friendships, loyalty, strength, and figuring out who you are. The crime element kept me guessing but it was the story of the girls' friendship that really drew me in.

I've been in a bit of a reading slog all summer. Not quite a slump, I've been reading just super slowly. It isn't that the books haven't been good, just that nothing that has been un-put-downable. The Secret Place is the first book in awhile that I eagerly tore through. If not for the fact that I was traveling this past week I would have finished it much sooner.

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