The Secret Place — Book Review

The Secret Place (Dublin Murder Squad #5) by Tana Frenchsecretplace

Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥

Favorite Quote:

“This flood was rocking her on her feet, too; she was kicking into its current, proving that she had a say in where it took her, before it could close over her head and bowl her away.”

There is something about the way Tana French writes that reads like liquid honey. Usually. It sucks you in. Now don’t get me wrong, her “girl speak” or “teen slang” or whatever she used in the way that almost every girl in this book spoke was almost physically painful to read. The “OhmyGod” and “totes amazeballs”, the overuse of the word “like” in a very unnecessary valley girl impression. Now I get that they were supposed to be uppity rich snob girls but I’m also supposed to believe they were so secretive and held onto the right information and led detectives in loops and waited for the right question to be asked when they talked/acted like the only thing they were smart enough to know was the directions to the mall or the only numbers they bothered to memorize was daddy’s credit card number.

I don’t think I’ve met a single teenager that actually talks like that. It was like they came straight out of the movie Clueless just more secretive and bitchy with everyone. It was enough detract a star for me because it almost made me not care who the killer was because listening to them talk was just. so. annoying. Typically I drink in Tana French’s writing like a constant stream of water in a vast desert. I can’t stop. Her writing is musical and magical. I only got that in patches this time and that was rather unfortunate.

The mystery itself is what kept me going. I liked what French had going on, so many of the elements she included. Secretive girls protecting each other, trying to lead the detectives in different directions to throw off the scent.  Secrets from each other when they thought they knew it all. Trying to protect one another to ultimately be the cause as to why it all really unravels. I can’t even begin to imagine how Holly was feeling at the end. It had many layers. I did want to know. I just wanted all that without the valley girl impressions. I wanted all the characters to be as complex as Holly and Julia were.
Reviewing a mystery is hard. I’m trying to not spoil things but some of the things I want to touch on are nearly impossible without spoiling things.

So this may be a bit spoilerific.

I can’t exactly say I was surprised by the killer. Maybe if every character under the sun didn’t say how innocent she was or it couldn’t be her I might have been more “Oh really now?”. Now that’s not to say I saw it all coming. There were quite a few twists, a couple things French delved into that I was not expecting at all. I’ll just say, the reason that Chris Harper had a condom in his pocket? Not what I thought at all. Blindsided me a bit there.

French tells the story in two ways. Every other chapter is told from a different perspective. First, present day with the two cops trying to solve the case.  Second, from one of the four main girls perspectives telling the story of what happens leading up to Chris Harper’s death. Then back and forth. We get to see the murder from both sides, before and after it has happened. We get a couple of nuggets of information that the cops don’t have or find out later and vice versa.  French does a good job of leading you in a couple directions on who the killer could be. Plenty of motive to go around.

The characters are pretty varied. I can’t say I particularly liked any of the preppy bitchy valley girls. I doubt I was supposed to but Gemma (potentially Alison) had unfulfilled promise. I would have liked to delve into them as something more than just mindless guppy followers of Joanne but alas. Holly was fantastic and very vivid. Julia. Julia I have mixed feelings about. Part of me likes her for how viciously she is willing to protect her friends. What she is willing to do. On the flip side she is so sure she is always right. Doesn’t even consider talking to her friends. She is sure she knows what is best for her friends without even bothering to ask what they might want…and THAT.  That I can’t stand at all. She honestly is pretty bitchy and rude in about 80% of this book.

The detectives. I almost said I don’t have much to say but then I started building a whole paragraph. I didn’t really like Stephen. His internal monologue kind of came off as douchey and self-centered. Didn’t even come off as if he cared that someone was dead. Only if this case got him into out of his career field in cold cases into the murder squad. Now I’m not saying that’s not realistic. People are career driven but he was a constant reminder in almost every chapter or more. Ding, good question, I’m still on this case. Tsk, better back off or back to cold cases for me. He was always patting himself on the back when he talked someone into a corner because he had his “shot”, his “in” and he was gonna take it. Jesus we get it. So much so that EVEN THE BOOK ACKNOWLEDGES IT.

“Fuck loyalty, fuck gratitude, fuck doing the right thing: all young Stephen cared about was his glorious career.”

He proves that too. Only reason he doesn’t chuck his partner under the bus and steal her solve is because she texts him in time and he’s all oh shit I guess she DID trust me all this time. Sure he feels quasi-guilty about it but I’m still not impressed either way. As for Conway? I didn’t feel too much for her either way. She was bitchy yeah, but that didn’t really bother me.

I felt a bit jipped with Selena and Becca. We barely got their perspective and Selena is always a space cadet which isn’t exactly endearing and most of the time it seemed like Becca barely existed. I’d say roughly 40% of the book was Julia’s take on everything. I assume to make us assume the killer is Julia.

The other thing that bothered me was the “paranormal” element that was added. It felt really off. Like everything is so realistic, could actually take place and then suddenly controlling lights/telekinesis and ghosts and stuff. Came out of nowhere and it just didn’t jive with the rest of the feeling I got from this book. It felt more like a cop-out. Anytime they needed information that no one was willing to give, queue a ghost siting and they were spilling their guts. Talk about how the ghost is angry and you get a freaking confession? I felt so let down. It felt so anti-climactic.

I’ve seen a few theories on how they thought it was real but it wasn’t and it was a girl’s dream/fantasy/a metaphor for their magical friendship. I don’t know what it was supposed to be but honestly it felt really out of place.

Even having ranted for paragraphs upon paragraphs here I still really enjoyed the mystery. I liked how many layers of the onion had to be peeled back to see who did what. Which part was caused by which person. How it all pieced together nicely. The things I complained about didn’t kill my love of the mystery. Yes things bothered me but overall I still liked it. I wanted much more but I can’t say I was disappointed. There was so much I did like, I’m just better at ranting about the parts that I didn’t. Was I absolutely pulled in and mesmerized by the story? No. Did I enjoy it? Yes. Yes I did.



This review can also be found on my Goodreads Profile:


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