The Secret Place (Dublin Murder Squad, #5)The Secret Place by Tana French
My rating: 4/5 cats
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okay. so let me get the bad news out of the way. this book has disrupted my opinion-based observation that every single tana french book has been better then the one that came before. which is probably for the best – it was starting to feel downright witchy, her powers, and it is an impossible thing to sustain, this exponential improvement from book to book.

having said that, this book is still absolutely amazing and riveting and everything you want out of a literary crime novel. this woman is a master of her craft, both in her storytelling and the way she manipulates structure to increase tension and set the most delicious pace; page turning but also frustrating as she expertly holds you back from climax; giving you what you want in her own time while developing her characters and themes way beyond what is typical for a mystery novel.

read the synopsis and meet me back here – easier that way.


this here is megan abbott territory – the secret world of adolescent girls with all that confusing swirling mash of vulnerability, cruelty, self-preservation, loyalty, sacrifice, and burgeoning new power in the form of sexual currency. which is of course not something new or invented by megan abbott, but she’s just the best i’ve read at exposing all of girlhood’s dirty little corners. and now tana french proves that she also has the chops to pull it off.

the action of the story takes place in a single day, with alternating chapters coming in-between detailing pertinent events from the past, counting down the time chris harper has left to live, tightening the circle of events as relationships evolve and the girls navigate the new world opening up to them. it’s all secrets and trust and “us against them.” and the half-heard song, maddeningly elusive.

the best thing about this book is the way the relationship between detectives conway and moran slooooowly grows. stephen moran was a character in Faithful Place, and since the events of that book he has been stuck working cold cases and yearning to break into the murder squad. detective conway is a take-no-shit detective already working on the murder squad, where her caustic personality has made her zero allies, and she is currently without a partner. when moran unexpectedly gets an opportunity to work alongside conway on a single case, they both have something to prove and there is a desperate “last chance” momentum driving them both. because of this drive and their similar working class upbringings, so very different from those of the privileged girls they are interviewing, it would seem like an easy professional match, but they both have baggage, ambitions, and fundamental differences that makes their partnership inauspicious from the get-go. but over the course of the day, you can see their minds start to work together, and once it all clicks into place, their interplay is like a well-oiled machine and it’s the very best kind of tag team detective work.

it also brings back some blasts from the past – when holly mackey chooses to come to detective moran with her story and her evidence, she is coming to him both as the daughter of moran’s old frenemy, detective mackey, and because of the intelligent and respectful way moran treated her the last time holly had evidence to a crime. but she is no longer nine years old, moran’s about to learn how complicated teenage girls can be, and detective mackey is ready to step in to protect his daughter if need be – family before cops.

okay, so my reasons for liking this slightly less than broken harbor.

omg, teenspeak. one of my favorite things about Faithful Place was her facility and authenticity with regard to voice. it created a truly immersive experience, so much so that it was hard to come out of in between reading sessions, blinking confusedly into a world that wasn’t being filtered through the cadence and lilt of the inhabitants of dublin. with this one, i was so grateful to get out of the teen girl chapters and back into the detectives’ story because of the way their voices grated on me. i come into contact with (more than) enough teenagers in my day-to-day, and i have just never heard any of them actually speak like this. i am familiar with the stereotype from my computer interactions, but i have never once heard the words “totes amazeballs” or “awesomesauce”used unironically. and here it is frequent and bludgeoning and all “hello?” and “ohmygod” and everything ends in that inflection like it’s a question? and it’s hard for me to reconcile the incredibly sophisticated and sensitive inner lives of these teengirl characters, all of their machinations and fine-tuned strategies and perceptions with the way they express themselves verbally, where they sound like unbright valley girls. it just doesn’t scan. and maybe it is me being out of touch, which is totes possible, but that dead-smart calm skill set that enables nearly all eight girls to dodge the very capable detectives and protect themselves and their friends is at odds with the lazy slang they parrot.

the only other thing i wasn’t crazy about was View Spoiler »

but on the whole, a fantastic book. there’s the central murder mystery plus all those constantly-running white noise themes woven into and behind everything – all the class and gender and age-oppositions, all the clique and popularity factors, and then the finer-grained battles determining who is the best at keeping secrets and reading people and it all just meshes perfectly into this story of girls and crime and nothing left to lose.

next, please!

you will be at BEA.

i will be at BEA.

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