Eager reader of history, mystery, classics, biographies, steampunk, lit fic, science, scifi, and etc. My reviews are mostly positive--I rarely finish or write about books I don't enjoy. My TBR is too high for that.
Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad mysteries are so heart, gut, and mind ensnaring that the first time through I always have trouble reading them slowly enough to fully appreciate the masterful webs of character, dialog, and scene she deploys to transform simple whodunits into psychologically complex stories. Haunting and atmospheric, these are Irish Noir, not cozies. Each book features a different detective which, I think, is part of what makes them feel compellingly real--no character’s actions, circumstances or personalities go through the distortions that sometimes become necessary if one individual is going to solve multiple, plot-worthy crimes.
Detective Steven Moran hasn’t been working murder cases, he’s been stuck with minor crimes, but he gets his chance to move up when Holly Mackey comes to him with evidence that someone at her exclusive all girl boarding school knows something about a year old unsolved murder that happened on the campus grounds. Moran brings that note to Antoinette Conway, the tough, touchy, rough edged detective still in charge of the case, and the two of them spend a long tension-filled day at St. Kilda’s, interviewing students, fending off the subversion of fellow officers, and chasing down clues--much to the dismay of the headmistress who wants to avoid upset parents and negative publicity. All the action in the book happens in the compressed time period of that one day, with alternate chapters flashing back to events at the school leading inexorably toward the murder.
As the two detectives try to sort out which girl posted the note claiming to know who killed Chris Harper, a formerly popular student from the neighboring boys’ school, the candidates quickly narrow to eight possibilities in two friend sets, groups that are very different except for the adolescent intensity of their intragroup connections. One group has a manipulative queen bee/mean girl leader who constantly tests the devotion of her minions, gullible girls willing to go to great lengths please her.They follow the cool rules that to them are as obvious and immutable as laws of nature--I mean there are some things you just DON’T DO, like wear jeans and no makeup to a fancy dance, and certain people just DO NOT belong together, like duh it’s WRONG and someone should MAKE SURE they break up.
The friends in the other set, which is Holly’s group, are instead rule breakers adept with snarky comebacks. More bonded to each other than they are with their families they revel in not being part of the crowd, celebrate, support, or at the least tolerate their differences, and are fiercely devoted to and protective of each other. Someone from one of the two groups saw something or knows something or maybe even did something about Chris Harper’s murder, but as the girls close ranks within their groups truth remains elusive.
The shaky, nascent but growing partnership of Detectives Moran and Conway adds one more angle to the plot’s potent friendship dynamic. Both detectives grew up on mean streets far from the homes of the wealthy students they are questioning, and though they work well together they don’t completely trust each other. I’ve enjoyed all of the books in the Dublin Murder series, some more than others, and The Secret Place is now among my favorites. All its elements add up to a dense, hard to put down story that had me churning through its chapters. I read an advanced review ebook copy of this book supplied by the publisher through NetGalley. The opinions are mine.