The Secret Place
by Tana French
reviewed by Ellie Stone
Tana French’s novel, The Secret Place, is a suspenseful story surrounding the murder of a 16-year old boy at an exclusive boarding school. The murder of the boy, Christopher Harper, is an unsolved mystery at the beginning of the book. One student, Holly Mackey, renews interest in the case when she highlights a new piece of possible evidence. Two detectives are assigned to the case and find themselves desperate for any clue that might lead to the solving of the case. Conway, who has previously worked on the case, and Stephens, an inexperienced investigator, find themselves conducting tense interviews, searching every inch of the school, and scrutinizing the school’s rumor board. They meticulously and relentlessly work to eliminate as suspects eight different girls possibly involved in the case. Surely, one must be involved.
Tana French writes The Secret Place in an engaging and picturesque style. French holds the reader’s attention by artfully painting the settings and characters. Additionally, the narration switches between two points of view and two different points in time. French cleverly uses this dual narration, one narration before the murder and one after the murder, to grab and intrigue the reader. Moreover, the novel addresses several positive themes such as the importance of honesty, determination, and consequences for wrongdoing. French highlights the importance of honesty through the students, determination through the investigators, and consequences for wrongdoing.
I would recommend this book to all teens looking for an enthralling and engrossing mystery novel. However, they should be prepared to stay up all night to finish reading. I would suggest an age range of 13 and older as there are several instances of crude language and sexual themes. Personally, I enjoyed the many different turns the plot took. It kept the novel entertaining and dynamic, although at some points the plot was a little confusing. Overall, I enjoyed the novel because of French’s captivating writing style, her ever-evolving characters and plot, and the on-going mysterious tone. Even the last page does not fully solve the murder.