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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intense and brilliant.
When it comes to writing emotional, evocative and magnificently character driven crime novels nobody does it better than Tana French. And I do mean nobody – as far as putting haunting magical words on the page goes, Ms French has the lead by quite a wide margin. The sheer beauty of the connections between one story and the next gives this series a unique...
Published 6 months ago by Liz Wilkins

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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great atmosphere but much too long.....
16 year old Chris Harper was found dead in the grounds of a St Kilda’s, a prestigious girls’ school. The crime was unsolved but a year later a note saying “I know who killed him” is found by Holly Mackey on the school notice board and taken to Detective Stephen Moran. She was a witness in an earlier case so knows him and trusts him. Moran sees...
Published 4 months ago by Wynne Kelly


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intense and brilliant., 3 Sept. 2014
By 
Liz Wilkins "Lizzy11268" (England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Secret Place (Hardcover)
When it comes to writing emotional, evocative and magnificently character driven crime novels nobody does it better than Tana French. And I do mean nobody – as far as putting haunting magical words on the page goes, Ms French has the lead by quite a wide margin. The sheer beauty of the connections between one story and the next gives this series a unique power…There is no single main character, there are many, all interconnected, any one of them briefly mentioned in one novel can take front and centre in the next. You never know who you will meet up with again, at what time and in what way. Intelligently constructed and yet feeling as if they just simply happen, there is a creative talent to it that is as yet, for me, unrivalled in the world of Crime Fiction. Which as we know is a wide wide world…

This time we enter the closed, claustrophobic atmosphere of a girl’s boarding school – sometime ago a handsome and popular boy from the opposite school was found murdered in the grounds – after a flurry of activity the case went cold and it seems as if his killer will never be found. Enter Holly Mackay (who you may remember featuring in another story when she was younger) bringing a new clue to the attention of Stephen Moran, a police officer she knows. Stuck in Cold Cases, Stephen determines to get involved with the murder squad, and this may well be his way in. What follows is a tense and massively addictive story, where time is of the essence if a murderer is to be unmasked. Using a taut stretch of time within the school in present time and flashbacks to the past, Ms French weaves her web around you once again and trust me you will be trapped within it.

Relationships. Always so well drawn in this world have, if possible, achieved an even greater depth here. The two groups of friends are stunningly well imagined – as the author unravels the sheer unknoweable quality of the bond and rapport that teenage girls develop and then often lose, this was absolutely fascinating. It took me back to the friendships of my youth, that utter surety that nothing will ever part you and you will live in each others pockets for eternity. And those moments where the cracks appear…life after all moves on and people change. When you start keeping secrets, even from each other, the centre cannot hold, and this is very much at the heart of this story. The Secret Place has many meanings…which one will be yours you will have to discover for yourself.

There isnt really very much else I can say. I could wax lyrical over the sheer genius of how things unravel, but that would give too much away. I will however say that I was one very happy reader at the reappearance of Frank Mackay – a character I adore with head and heart. And as I read the previous novels before I was a reviewer I would say that its the perfect excuse to re-read the lot and that is exactly what I intend to do. So if you have yet to discover the absolute inventiveness and enchantment of this novelist watch this space…

**Source: Netgalley UK and now Hardback purchased via local bookshop**
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars SUPERB PSYCHOLOGICAL SUSPENSE, 18 Dec. 2014
By 
Gail Cooke (TX, USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
With impressive theater backgrounds Stephen Hogan and Lara Hutchinson bring amazing voices to the fifth Dublin Murder Squad mystery. They seemingly inhabit the characters bringing an intriguing story to vivid life. This is a series that just gets better and better, but what else would one expect from Edgar, Anthony, Macavity and Barry award winner Tana French? She tells this story from different perspectives, each building to a startling conclusion.

Detective Stephen Moran has been waiting not too patiently to become a part of Dublin's Murder Squad. It appears his time has come when sixteen-year-old Holly Mackey, the daughter of a colleague and a student at St. Kilda's boarding school, beings him a notice from her school's notice board known as The Secret Place. It is secret because girls can pin up what they wish anonymously. What Holly brings Moran is a bit of a shocker - the year before Chris Harper, a well-liked teenager from the neighboring boy's school had been murdered, a killing still unsolved. Holly brings a photo of Chris with the phrase "I know who killed him" on it.

Moran takes the photo to a tough detective whose case this had been - Antoinette Conway. The two of them visit the school and their appearance as well as their interrogation sparks happenings that draw in Holly and her close friends.

Of course, solving the murder is at the core of this tale but along the way French explores secrets that teenage girls might keep as well as cleverly drawing in questions of friendship and loyalty.

The Secret Place is an aces tale from start to finish, rich in atmosphere and hidden places of the mind and heart.

- Gail Cooke
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Perceptions, 4 Sept. 2014
By 
prisrob "pris," (New England USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: The Secret Place (Hardcover)
Tana French has proved to be one of those authors who can bring us into an otherwise unknown world. In this novel we visit the classes, those who have and those who do not have as much. A girl's school, St. Kilda, convent, where the adolescent slips into the beginnings of adulthood. In these walls and grasses and gardens lay secrets and at times other worldly sightings. It is at once a mystery,but also a time of facing truths.

Detective Stephan Moran of the Cold Case Squad receives a visit from a young woman, Holly MacKay. She was once a witness to an inquiry and Moran seemed to be the person she could relate to. She brought with her a clue to a murder that had occurred twelve months past. Moran knew this might be his ticket to the Murder Squad, so he played it to the hilt. He brings the information to the Murder Squad and Detective Antoinette Conway. She is a hard nose woman who has to put up with the bullying and suggestive comments of her call male colleagues. But, she knows her stuff, realizes Moran may be helpful in obtaining info from the young women at St. Kilda's.

The story alternates between the current investigation and events from the year leading up to the murder, interspersed with the lives of several young women at the school. This is well done, we now have two sides of the perception, and two sides of what really went down. The writing is pure Tana French, perceptive, intelligent, does not leave anyone with the answers. You must squirm and think through for the clues to make sense.

Not for a million dollars would I want to revisit adolescence, but we do it here. The sweet press and light of the early years is replaced with the uncertainty and hormone release of the mid teens. Learning what can be done, what must be done, and the restrictions of life with the nuns.

Recommended. prisrob 09-04-14
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A tragedy of misunderstandings, misperceptions and teenage intensity, 26 Jun. 2014
By 
Roman Clodia (London) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Secret Place (Hardcover)
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Since In the Woods Tana French has been one of my `must-read' authors: in this book she occupies the territory of Megan Abbott, another one of my favourite writers, that of the fragile, febrile and fevered world of female adolescence.

A year ago a teenage boy was killed in the grounds of an exclusive Dublin girls' school: now one of the girls wants the case re-opened - but hasn't counted on the dark and tangled secrets which will spill out.

French manages a complex narrative that flips between the past and the present. Like her other books in what is only loosely a series, the internal worlds of her detectives mirror, though never completely match, the themes of the main story. The book is claustrophobic, with the `present' narrative taking place over a single day. And there are a variety of `secret places' put to work: the official one in the school, but also a mysterious clearing in the school grounds, and the internal places in the girls' bodies and also psyches.

French writes with a poetic intensity that haunts the book, but also puts her finger unerringly on what it means to be 15-16: `Julia is trying out swearing. It still only sort of works', and `everyone gets ready for the Court [a local shopping mall] like they're getting ready for the Oscars. The Court is where you bring your bewildering new curves and walk and self so people can tell you what you're worth'.

At its heart and beneath all the adolescent posturing and play-acting, though, is both a sliver of wildness and the radiant picture of a young couple kissing in the night. In some ways, this story has been told before in other fictions - but in French's masterful hand it is raised to the status of tragedy. Highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not her best but still worth reading, 7 Feb. 2015
By 
A. Linton (Manchester, Manchester United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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I like the gimmick whereby French's books always centre around a different character and it's always interesting to see what she will come up with next. Here there are elements of 'The Secret History' and 'Practical Magic' within the framework of a drama much of which could be presented as a play - all the present day action takes place within a single day, while two cops interview the pupils of a posh girls school about a murder which took place some months previously, the rest being flashbacks seen from the viewpoint of some of the pupils.

It took a long time to get into - but I find that with all French's books - which usually have quite a complex set up it takes a while to get your head round. I can't say it ever became really compelling until near the end. I quite like some of the supernatural elements she introduced - though it's never quite clear if Holly and her four friends really have telekinetic powers like a Stephen King heroine or it's all down to youthful imagination - but there was never any kind of payoff and in the end the whole thing is irrelevant. The chemistry between Conway and Moran never quite worked for me and at times the whole investigation storyline seemed so artificial that I felt embarrassed for the characters having to take part in it - I much preferred the flashbacks which told the girls own stories. She really does capture some of the magic of youth, of friendships you think will last forever, the feeling of being sheltered from the outside world and adult responsibility. Not sure to be honest if the murder and the detective story part really needed to be there.

Still a weaker effort from Tana French is better than the best efforts of most thriller writers so overall I was quite satisfied to get this book, especially at the kindle price. It did keep me reading for a whole week and I think I will probably get more out of it the second time round. I hope her next book centres around Conway who seems like a potentially much more interesting character than Moran.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It is a very good portrayal of teenage girls and the friendships they form, 1 Sept. 2014
By 
ElaineG (uk) - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
The Secret Place is a pinboard at St Kilda’s School for Girls, where the students can pin their secret thoughts anonymously. The idea is that it is a safe place for girls to vent their feelings, without recourse to the internet.

A year ago, Chris Harper, a student at nearby St Colms School for Boys was found murdered in the grounds of St Kilda. The murderer was never found.

Now, after a postcard claiming “I Know Who Killed Him” is found on the Secret Place, Detectives Moran and Conway are returning to St Kildas to try and discover who pinned the postcard there, and who killed Chris.

The story is told in two parts. The first part takes place over one day, and tells what happens on Moran and Conway’s visit to the school, as they interview the girls and try and put all the pieces of the puzzle together. Intertwining this is the story of the months leading up to Chris’s death and as I read the two parts side by side, and all the little clues appeared and I started putting two and two together, I just didn’t want to put the book down. I was constantly guessing who the murderer was, and who put the postcard up, changing my mind almost by the chapter.

It is a very good portrayal of teenage girls and the friendships they form. They can be loyal to each other but at the same time they can be absolutely vicious, vindictive, two faced and hypocritical. Great stuff! I also really liked the pairing of Conway and Moran, how they bounced off each other and interacted. They worked really well together as a team, even though Conway herself would probably scoff at that suggestion, and it would be great to read more of the two of them.

A thoroughly good read that is really addictive and certainly seems to live up to the hype surrounding it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Yet from Tana French, 14 Aug. 2014
By 
OEJ - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Secret Place (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
In Tana French's fifth novel in the Dublin Murder Squad series, a murder has already been committed on the grounds of St Kilda's private girls' high school, and over the course of just 15 hours main character Detective Stephen Moran - who normally specialises in cold cases - works for the first time alongside the tough and uncompromising Detective Antoinette Conway to find the killer. Half of the tale is told in the first-person (Moran) in the present day here-and-now, and all of the alternate chapters are told in the third-person in the months leading up to the killing a year earlier. Conway played the leading role at the time of the original police investigation but could not find so much as a motive, let alone a suspect. The case had drifted towards unsolved when, out of the blue, a 16-year-old girl walks into the city police station and asks for Detective Moran, because she has something that might help find out who did it. That girl is Holly Mackey, daughter of undercover cop Frank Mackey, who previously featured in The Likeness and Faithful Place and who has a superb cameo in The Secret Place. Moran and Conway race off to St Kilda's to interview all of the possible suspects again, this time adopting Moran's different and less confrontational style (compared to Conway's) that gets the girls talking more freely than a year earlier. The problem is, hardly anyone seems to be telling the truth....

Among the many pleasures here, one of them is the challenge not just of guessing who the killer is, but why they would have done it. The list of suspects is not short, but each of them might well have a different motive.

Another feature high on the list of reader pleasures is what might be called The French Connection; Tana French isn't the first and only author to be adept at character creation and development, but where she stands tall is the way in which she develops the relationships between her characters. Perhaps the best of all is that between Moran and Conway, especially as the reader knows that Moran's career probably depends on it. Later in the story we witness a strained and potentially explosive connection between Moran and his senior, Frank Mackey, a relationship that could have devasting consequences for both of them. Then there are the complex and fascinating friendships among the eight main characters of the girl students, which evolve in ways that are an intriguing mixture of the unpredictable and the teen-typical. In these respects, there are riches to be found on almost every single page.

No hesitation - this is one of the best novels I have read over the past 10 years or more. Wonderful prose, exquisite character and relationship development, outstanding dialogue, and not so much a whodunit as a 'whydunit'. Why would anyone want to kill the victim? All is revealed, but I doubt that many readers will predict the exact motive. The narrative and in particular the dialogue is relentlessly 'teenspeak' with more than a few ohmyGods, likes (this is, like, such a good book!) and the occasional hello? as a way of showing another person that they're stupid. While it is absolutely about teenage girls from start to finish, I can't say with any degree of comfort that the book itself is suitable reading material for girls (or boys) in that age group. It's not just the frequent use of strong language and expletives, rather it's the underlying theme of the story itself. This is a tale for adults, in my opinion.

500 pages isn't long enough when the writing is as good as this. There can be no doubt that Tana French and her team put a lot of heart and soul into writing The Secret Place, not to mention plain hard work. It's all about the journey, not the destination, even though the conclusion is absolutely as good as all that had gone before. If I had to think of a criticism, it's the supernatural sub-theme that was - for different reasons - a flaw in her previous novel Broken Harbour. I won't go into details but it was, again, a fascinating element that was left curiously unfinished. I simply did not want this story to end.

For me this is the best yet from Tana French, and better yet it's one of the best-written works of crime fiction I have read - ever. The Secret Place deserves to be referred to as THE novel of 2014, one that you really should not hesitate to buy. Just get it - it's superb in every way.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Detective fiction at its best, 20 July 2014
By 
Mrs. K. A. P. Wright - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Secret Place (Hardcover)
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Tana French’s first detective story was terrific and she has got better with every book. I thought Broken Harbour would be a hard act to follow, but she has succeeded. The Secret Place is superb. It is a long book that unwinds slowly. It is told in two time streams – now, and just over a year ago, the months leading up to Christopher Harper’s murder.

Christopher has been found murdered in the grounds of St Kilda’s, an elite girls’ boarding school. He was a pupil at the neighbouring boys’ boarding school. Extensive police enquiries have led nowhere. A year later, Holly, a pupil at St Kilda’s who had been a witness in a trial five or six years earlier, approaches the policeman who looked after her. She has what appears to be new information. The policeman, Stephen Moran, works in Cold Cases but aspires to the Murder Squad. He takes the information to the lead on the Harper case, Detective Conway, an ambitious newly promoted cop who is ostracised by her colleagues. In parallel we find out what happened a year ago and the progress of the new investigation.

French’s characterisation is superlative. The detectives quickly discover that they should concentrate on eight girls, two groups of girls who loathe each other. The dynamics of the relationships between and within the groups is explored in depth revealing contradictions and ambiguity until slowly the truth comes into view.

Unlike many detective story writers, Tana French does not have her own pet policeman. She has a police force from which her characters are taken. We see the world and all the other characters from her lead policeman’s point of view and this may be very different from what we have seen in previous books. So, we have met Stephen as a bit player in a previous book, Faithfull Place, where we also met Holly and her father, Frank Mackey. Other characters from previous books are also mentioned, but all now seen from Stephen’s point of view. This gives the characterisation extra depth and interest, so much so that I am now re-reading Faithfull Place and The Likeness.

It would be pointless to try to describe the plot in any more detail, because Tana French needed over five hundred pages to do it and she didn’t waste a word.

This is an excellent book. It is a totally absorbing, long and dense book which needs to be read carefully. This is not a book to skim or skip. Read every word. Enjoy.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great atmosphere but much too long....., 21 Oct. 2014
By 
Wynne Kelly "Kellydoll" (Coventry, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Secret Place (Hardcover)
16 year old Chris Harper was found dead in the grounds of a St Kilda’s, a prestigious girls’ school. The crime was unsolved but a year later a note saying “I know who killed him” is found by Holly Mackey on the school notice board and taken to Detective Stephen Moran. She was a witness in an earlier case so knows him and trusts him. Moran sees this as his big chance to get out of Cold Cases and onto the Murder Squad.

The Secret Place takes place over a single day with alternate chapters telling the story of from the girls’ point of view leading up to the murder.

Tana French is good on atmosphere and captures the claustrophobia and intensity of privileged teenage girls living together. She is also good on class attitudes. Moran and his senior officer Antoinette Conway are both from working class backgrounds and are uncomfortable working in an expensive school. However the head teacher is even more uncomfortable having them around. The girls are strongly portrayed – their loyalties, jealousies, cattiness and judgement of others. She is particularly good on the way the girls vie with one another for status and how cruel they can be to each other.

I can accept the way in which some girls thought they saw the ghost of Chris. This fits in with the hysteria of the young girls. The other supernatural touches seemed very out of place and struck a jarring note. My main problem with the book was that it was much too long. It could have been drastically shortened without losing any of the plot or atmosphere. By the end I was losing patience…….
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't finish it, 15 Feb. 2015
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The beginning was intriguing but I soon realised that the plot was not complex enough to fill over 500 pages. I persevered until the supernatural stuff started happening and decided that life's too short to waste on this poor effort.
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