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This was, surprisingly, my first Tana French (after finishing this one, I immediately read the first four), but jumping in at book five was not a problem. I’m not sure how I missed her, but she writes an excellent police procedural. In THE SECRET PLACE, she takes on the world of privileged teenage girls when a photo of a murdered boy turns up on a bulletin board with the message “I know who killed him.” Holly Mackey, a student at St. Kelda’s and daughter to a cop, brings the picture to Detective Stephen Moran, who is desperate to get on the Dublin Murder Squad and advance his career. He and prickly Detective Conway team up to find the truth. The chapters recounting their investigation (lasting one day) are intercut with flashbacks counting down the last year of Chris Harper’s life.

I really enjoyed the developing partnership between Moran and Conway, and the juxtaposition of their working-class roots against the privileged boarding school girls was well done. The suspects in the case include Holly and her close-knit group of three other girls, and a rival group of four girls. Teenage girls can be extremely annoying to read about, but French treats them as complex people, and their conflicting loyalties, rivalries, and secrets ring true. I was taken aback by a touch of magical realism, which seemed completely out of character for a crime novel. I’m not sure it added anything to the story for me, but I’ve decided it at least didn’t diminish my enjoyment.

Source disclosure: I received an e-galley of this title courtesy of the publisher.

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