Book Review: The Secret Place by Tana French
I’ve read every single novel by author Tana French, ever since she came out with her debut In the Woods back in 2007.
Then, I heard French came out with her fifth mystery novel called The Secret Place, and I knew I just had to have it. So, I waited until it came out in paperback and pre-ordered it, so that once it reached my house I immediately dove in.
The Secret Place was fabulous. So far, it’s my second favorite French novel, only narrowly missing the first place spot taken up by In the Woods, which will probably be my favorite mystery novel for ever and for always.
The Secret Place details the story of Stephen Moran and Detective Antoinette Conway as they unfurl the arms of a year-old cold case at a girl’s boarding school in Ireland. Holly Mackey, the daughter of Detective Frank Mackey, both of which were in previous French mysteries, brings Stephen a card of a photo of the dead boy when he was a live, with the words “I know who killed him.” Thus begins a 24-hour long investigation of eight teenage girls who are all connected to the murdered boy in some way.
I’ve always been in love with French’s writing style. It’s so clean and fresh, with biting truth and crystal clear character observations. French changed her usual writing format this time around by using generally two points of view: Stephen Moran and Holly Mackey. Her character developments through these points of view are very fluid, and nothing seems out of place or out of character. Also, the storyline in general is wonderfully woven; following the path Stephen takes getting to the bottom of the cold case, and watching Holly grow as a teenager throughout the entire novel, both plot lines are intriguing and well-written.
On the other side, the writing was almost too much for me at the beginning of the novel, and sometimes things threw me. To start, I’ve mentioned already the writing style is brilliant, but I felt there may have been too many choppy sentences or too much description at the beginning to allow the reader to really get into the story. But, I thought French really caught her groove close to the beginning and the style seemed perfect. Another thing I wasn’t sure about was how long it took the detectives to reach the conclusion of their mystery: it was one day. Does it really only take one day of questioning, when in the past it was never solved?
But, despite these little things, I absolutely loved this novel. It really has been a long time since I’ve read a book I enjoyed this much, not just for the story, but for the storytelling. I can’t wait for French to introduce the next novel in her Dublin Murder Squad series.
For more murder mysteries, check out Tana French’s other Dublin Murder Squad novels, or look into American author Gillian Flynn or Canadian author Louise Penny.