Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Publication Date: 28 August 2014
Format: Trade Paperback, 528 pgs
Source: Personal Library
I wished I've got the other edition of The Secret Place. I mean, if I didn't specifically browse through the thrillers section, I'd have missed this shiny new book by Tana French. Without any option (this is the only edition on shelf), I grabbed it. And because this is Tana French, I decided to overlook the plain cover; after all I've waited for this book for a long time (I'm sure TF fans out there will agree with me.) Pardon my rant.
In The Secret Place, we have Detective Stephen Moran as the lead character. Readers who read Tana French's earlier books would remember him. For readers who haven't read them, it's not a problem as Stephen is more of a supporting character then. This book gives us more than a glimpse of him, since he's working alongside with Detective Antoinette Conway. Detective Conway is a new character, but not one to be dismissed easily due to her strong personality. She's outright blunt and doesn't hold her punches. I suppose she has to portray that image as I can imagine how tough it'd be to be the female in a men's field, and it's the elite Dublin Murder Squad, so to speak.
Moran knew Holly as she was a witness to a case years ago. Her dad is a detective too. St. Kilda's is a prestigious school where the girls of the upperclass families go to. While Conway wasn't impressed with the status, Moran was intrigued by the overall image since he didn't belong and knew he would never belong in the long run anyway.
Who killed Chris? Was it a nun who thought he had compromised one of the girls? Or was it the school groundskeeper who had a drug possession record? Detective Conway thought they would not ruled out the girls, since she knew there are cliques, in particularly two cliques who always seem to be at loggerheads with each other ("razor blades in their hair", in Conway's own term), and who wouldn't want attention from the boys from St. Colm's? However, their headmistress assured them that the girls would do no such thing, given their upperclass status and the school name.
Tana French is a master when it comes to the characterisations and building atmosphere and intensity. Right from the beginning, you could just sense the forebrooding atmosphere. That sense is subtle, yet you know something is there and it makes your mind wonder. The suspense is thick to the point that you have the overwhelming feel to finish the book, yet at the same time you want to savour the suspense which is keeping you entranced. A dilemma, I know.
What I also liked about this book is the exchanges (chemistry?) between Moran and Conway. They may not share the same wavelength and class, yet the more I read about them the more comfortable that feeling I got from them. Yes, I think Ms. French is good in building connection between characters too. She also did a great job in describing the feelings and thoughts of the teenage girls, from the mean girls right to the loyalty and sentimental ones (made me think of my good old school days, yeah).
I hope Tana French's next book will feature Detective Antoinette Conway. She may be tough and appears to be cold but I quite admire the way she works. Although The Secret Place is a good read, it's not my favourite TF book. In the Woods still remains on that favourite spot and hopefully that place would be replaced by her future releases. I'm waiting.