Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads

The Secret Place – Tana French

5*'s Crime Fiction
Crime Fiction

I’ve been anticipating reading this book for an age, I have loved all Tana French’s previous books but this one truly surpasses them all. With most of the action taking place in an exclusive girls boarding school, St Kilda’s, this is Mallory Towers for grown-ups and I loved it!

The main mystery is clear from the beginning when a Chris Harper from the neighbouring boy’s school is found dead in St Kilda’s grounds, the police interview everyone in the days following but have no suspects for the murder and the case is put on the back burner. All is quiet for the best part of a year until Holly Mackey takes a card to Detective Steve Moran with a picture of Chris and the words ‘I know who killed him’ she had removed it from the secret place, a board at school where the girls could anonymously post their secrets. Steve Moran who was introduced in Faithful Place, has been working cold cases since then which he found interesting to begin with but his ambition is driving him onwards and as far as the detective is concerned, the pinnacle would be the murder squad.sees an opportunity to get in with the Murder Squad.  Seizing the opportunity Steve talks his way into joining feisty Antoinette Conway who works on The Murder Squad to find out who put the card up.  All too soon he finds himself immersed in the bewitching world of teenage girls, with a smattering of totes amazeballs, secret texts and alliances so strong that the girls  appear welded together but, there is also a dark side, with a flash of the supernatural and rivalries that run deep. You really have to feel sorry for the poor man!

This is one of those books which had me totally immersed in the time and place, it is a long time since I was a teenage girl and Tana French perfectly captures the mixture of excitement and dread at a life full of possibilities lying ahead, the intensity of every moment and the longing to stand out from the crowd while in no way wanting to be on the outside. Even though I am not a fan of the supernatural, the few elements present in this book just about worked in this setting pushing into sharp relief the detective’s careful work to find out what happened on that fateful night.

The book is split between times, we meet Chris when he is alive, with a countdown of how many months, weeks and days he is going to live, a simple statement that didn’t lose its power to hit me in the solar plexus each time it appeared. The girls from St Kilda’s also take their turn at telling the tale against the backdrop of the investigation.

The plot is brilliant with the twists and turns keeping me guessing, torn between wanting to race through the book but holding back in case I missed a scrap of information that would hold the key to the mystery. I am pleased to report that the ending works well, this author hasn’t cheated us, the clues were all there revealed slowly but surely in amongst a whole bucketful of red-herrings.

If the plot was good as always Tana French has provided us with a superb cast of characters from the teenage girls to the nuns and head teacher Eileen McKenna, from Steve Moran to Mr Mackey, Holly’s detective father who is walking the tightrope between policeman and father all felt so real that I would swear I knew them. A mark indeed of a fantastic writer.

The Secret Place, as with the rest in the Dublin Murder Squad series, could be read as a standalone since only one character is followed on from one book to the next there are no important story arcs or previous details required, although of course I would suggest anyone who loves a good crime novel reads each and every one.

I’d like to thank the publishers Hodder & Stoughton for allowing me to read a copy of this book in return for this review. The Secret Place was published on 28 August 2014.

The Dublin Murder Squad books:

In The Woods

The Likeness

Faithful Place

Broken Harbour

The Secret Place


A book lover who clearly has issues as obsessed with crime despite leading a respectable life

41 thoughts on “The Secret Place – Tana French

  1. Cleo – So glad to hear you enjoyed this. I think Tana French is very talented too, and I’m really keen to read this one. Seems I’ve a treat awaiting me. 🙂


    1. Thanks Trish, I don’t like books where it is too hard to work out especially if it doesn’t make sense by the end. There were enough red herrings to keep the plot moving and keep me guessing. A great read 🙂


  2. Good Heavens! If didn’t already love Tana French I would still have to pick this up based on your review bringing in Enid Blyton’s Mallory Towers and a dark grisly murder! I didn’t think my desperation for this book could become more palpable but you did it! Kudos to you


  3. Went out yesterday first thing and bought this and Sarah Waters’ The Paying Guests! Two v high on my mental”can’t wait til this comes out”list. Now I’ve got this thorny problem, which should I read first? On the strength of this review I’m thinking Tana French, but I’ll probably read 30-odd pages of this and you’ll probably post an even better The Paying Guests review tomorrow! The dilemmas you put me in Cleo!


      1. Brilliant! I’ve read the first 50 pages or so but I don’t want to rush through it as it’ll be 3 years or so before we get another of her masterpieces! So adore her work!


  4. Having just read my first French I’m hooked – Broken Harbour – and definitely on the path for more. This one sounds particularly wonderful! A TBR for sure – must go – some book shopping to do!


    1. What I like about this author is that each of her books is completely different (although all captivating) this one is my favourite because of the humorous look at girls in a boarding school. Broken Harbour is particularly spooky, so glad you enjoyed it.


      1. Well indeed, as someone who went to a girls’ secondary school (though not a boarding school) I am kind of looking forward to the mix of girlish look back humour as well as the rest. And, you are quite right about the spooky, bleak quality of Broken Harbour. I do have a weird liking for bleak in books, and a focus on psychology which is not the psychology of the psychopath, but the more usual psychology of how normal people hold themselves together, and how easily it can all fracture when ‘things happen’ – some of them the normal stuff of all our lives, and some the stuff of ‘zeitgeist’ I probably need cheering up a bit now with tuck shops, crushes and the like!


  5. So, Cleopatra having just closed the cover for the final time, all I can say, head spinning, is…OMG, like WOW! I sincerely hope that when I sit down and try to review it that coherence will come, but, for once I’ m almost tempted to 5 star any incoherent 5 star reviews on Amazon which say OMG, like WOW! Speechless incoherence seems a fit response at the moment. SO glad I got this. Thank you. Having read 4 and 5 I will definitely go 1, 2, 3 and hopefully she will then have 6 ready!


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