Books: The Secret Place by Tana French

This is the fifth in French's Dublin Murder Squad series, and I've enjoyed each book in different ways. Though I wish she'd start varying the titles; they're starting to sound alike:

  • In the Woods
  • The Likeness
  • Faithful Place
  • Broken Harbor
  • The Secret Place

Okay, maybe it's just that Faithful Place and The Secret Place sound alike. But still. If they were farther apart in the series, it might be fine, but . . .

The titular Secret Place in this book is a bulletin board in a girls' school. A year before, a boy from the neighboring boys' school was found murdered on the girls' school grounds. Then a postcard appears on the Secret Place board—a board the girls at the school use to anonymously air their thoughts—stating someone knows who did it.

It boils down to two sets of girls, kind of rival gangs. But we only see through the eyes of, and are meant to sympathize with, one set of girls: Becca, Julia, Holly, and Selena. (And that Holly is the Holly Mackey we see in Faithful Place, only now she's much older.)

The result is a strange see-saw between a murder mystery and a YA novel. French alternate chapters between the current investigation and the past as described by Holly and her friends. And while French does both sides deftly, I found myself often wishing in the "YA" parts to get back to the main mystery.

There was also a touch of the supernatural in this book that felt out of place. It eventually boils away to nothing, and I was left wondering if we're meant to believe it was real or . . . ??? I suspect this is a commentary on the magic of adolescence, how maybe we all have a time in our lives when we can do amazing things, but then we cap ourselves off and make ourselves live solely in the "real" world. Or maybe there's just a time in our lives when we believe in ourselves and our abilities, but then the world crashes in and boxes us up and tells us, no, we can only do [insert assessment results here].

Anyway. It was a good book. They're all good. This one was just a tad weirder, a little off the track. Which isn't a bad thing, but it might not be what you're after when picking up one of these.

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