2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Imperfections
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...
Published 8 months ago by prisrob
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Way too long
St Kilda's, a girls' boarding school, run by nuns, is the setting for this novel. A year previously a popular boy from the neighbouring St Colm's has been found dead in the grounds of St Kilda's; the culprit has not been found. Enter Mr Plod in the shape of Stephen Moran, a young detective anxious to leave Cold Cases, so when he's handed a clue by one of the students...
Published 9 days ago by Jood
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Imperfections,
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
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Way too long,
St Kilda's, a girls' boarding school, run by nuns, is the setting for this novel. A year previously a popular boy from the neighbouring St Colm's has been found dead in the grounds of St Kilda's; the culprit has not been found. Enter Mr Plod in the shape of Stephen Moran, a young detective anxious to leave Cold Cases, so when he's handed a clue by one of the students from St Kilda's he grabs the opportunity with both hands, heading off to Murder where he meets one Antoinette Conway. Together they dash off to St Kilda's. These are the bare bones of the book.
The book is written in the popular back and forth way – alternating chapters of past and present which works quite well. From no suspects at all, suddenly there are eight – two rival gangs of four girls each, all from well-heeled, well-connected families. The characterisation of the girls is quite believable, however they all come across as selfish, shallow, and quite unlikeable; rivalry, jealousy, cloying friendship, bitchiness, mass hysteria – it's all there. The whole paranormal thing was a bit of a stretch and just irrelevant padding as far as I'm concerned. The boys are flat, lifeless one-dimensional creatures who hang around the periphery being loutish, and, predictably, the dead boy, gorgeous, popular is not all he seemed.
What I found totally unbelievable is the notion that the “present” all takes place within a day. I just can't see it – interviewing and re-interviewing eight teenage girls, searching their rooms, the school grounds, the library, all in a day? Was this the author's intention, or did she just not realise that's the way it turned out? I also found the mobile phones thing really confusing – maybe younger readers with more knowledge than I would be able to follow it.
Disappointingly, there is nothing new in this novel; it's light, quite entertaining, flimsy but far too long.
7 of 8 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 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…….
23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Detective fiction at its best,
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.
6 of 7 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 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**
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The main reason I found this novel tedious was simply its length,
Overlong and unengaging.The main reason I found this novel tedious was simply its length, which is way in excess of what's justified by the flimsy story. There's much to make the reader lose patience, too - the endless "um, hello, OMG" way the girls' speech is rendered, the caricatured way some of the characters are presented, and last and worst, a completely redundant and ridiculous theme involving telekinesis. No, really. I did read to the end, but only dogged determination kept me going. This was the first book I had read by this writer, and it will probably be the last.
5.0 out of 5 stars For me this is the best yet from Tana French,
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 so far from Tana French, and better yet it's one of the best-written works of crime fiction I have read - full stop. 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.
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant,
This is another quite brilliant book from Tana French. It has a crime as the plot driver, but it is really a novel of character, of how groups behave and of the experience of adolescence.
The story is told in two intercut narratives. In the present day, the investigation of the death of a boy in the grounds of a girls' school in Dublin a year ago is reopened by a possible new lead. This is narrated by a young Detective Constable, Stephen Moran, in an utterly convincing voice, beautifully capturing both the narrator and what he experiences. The other tale is of what actually happened leading up to the murder told in the third person in fantastically evocative prose which is almost poetic at times. It is perfectly structured and paced, the tension and atmosphere is built relentlessly and it held me completely gripped.
What really makes this book so good is Tana French's ability to understand and portray the inner world of her characters and the experience of school and adolescence. The detective narrator and the adolescent schoolgirls at the centre of the investigation are beautifully painted and even minor characters are completely convincing. French has the ability to portray people vividly in just a few penetrating words or a couple of lines of dialogue, like a teenage girl observing the wealthy mother of a schoolmate: "Alison's mum has had a lot of plastic surgery and she wears fake eyelashes the size of hairbrushes. She looks sort of like a person but not really, like someone explained to aliens what a person is and they did their best to make one of their own." This is just a random example; the book is full of clear insight, exposure of false posturing and often great humanity and compassion.
This is a very fine novel as well as a gripping crime mystery. Warmly recommended to anyone who likes a gripping, intelligent read.
4.0 out of 5 stars School for scoundrels,
Stephen Moran is a detective on Cold Cases but really wants to be part of the murder squad. A 16 year old girl he remembers as a witness from a murder seven years previous walks into the police station asking to see him. Giving him some new information pertinent to a 12 month old murder investigation of a young lad found dead on school grounds that has hit a brick wall, Moran wonders if this is the opportunity he's been waiting for. Even though she had been interviewed before regarding the boy, his chance comes when `take-no-prisoners' Detective Antoinette Conway asks him to tag along on her visit to the school to follow up the young girl's information.
Tana French's delve into the world of a private girls school where, save for their own clique, secrets abound and no one knows what really goes on. The teachers certainly don't. We all had secrets at school in our mid teens and there were always enough rumours and nudges to fill a book of this length, but what is certain is that nothing was as mysterious as what goes on at exclusive St Kilda's College on the outskirts of Dublin. It reminds me a bit of the film `Unman, Wittering and Zigo' in that the pupils close ranks when questioned. Have the manipulative girls rehearsed their answers? Just William this isn't.
All the main characters are well written and we discover a lot about them, and it makes a nice change to read that the main protagonist (this is a first person novel) doesn't have the seemingly obligatory demons to exorcise. It also seems as if part of Conway doesn't want Moran imposing this new evidence on her as it's her name on the file as chief investigating officer and doesn't want to lose face if it's another dead end. Being slightly in awe of her, he manages to say, do and think the right things and ends up in her good books. The two detectives have their suspects but a more important question arises; that of why. A third of the way through, it occurred to me that this might be more than just a crime thriller; there's a psychological tone about it too in the way each individual behaves. It's all working out until one of the girls' parent's turns the two detectives against each other.
My only reservation is that maybe French over-elaborates the narrative and descriptive passages, making this longer than it could have been but that is obviously her manner. Then again, maybe it wouldn't have worked with fewer pages. Also, the style of single word sentences does appear a bit peculiar at first but it doesn't detract from the main component; the story, which, it has to be said, is good. There are also certain events that occur that aren't explained, other than one group of girls calling another quartet 'witches'. Maybe it's the school environment that makes it more appealing in that we are all aware of how duplicitous teenagers can be. It's a pleasant change from the usual surroundings in novels in the genre.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A gripping read,
A privileged girls' boarding school is the scene of the murder of a boy. A year later someone pins up a notice claiming to know the identity of the killer - something that the police couldn't find out. Two rival groups of girls: their bonds, secrecy, loyalties and lies lead to many a red herring. Two cops; A slick female detective and a rookie spend 12 hours at the school and their story is interspersed with the events, a year earlier, leading up to the boy's death. Motive a bit shaky but the plot moved well and provided a gripping read.
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