Tuesday, December 20, 2016

'The Secret Place' by Tana French

20 December 2016

It was earlier this year that I first discovered Tana French’s superior detective novels featuring the Dublin Murder Squad. Having enjoyed ‘Broken Harbour’ (reviewed here in May 2016) I was looking forward to ‘The Secret Place’, which I have just finished reading as an unabridged audio book, narrated by Stephen Hogan and Lara Hutchinson. Set in an expensive girls’ boarding school outside Dublin, ‘The Secret Place’ is told through the eyes of Detective Stephen Moran who first appeared as a minor character in one of French’s earlier novels ‘Faithful Place’. Although characters recur and there are references to previous cases, each of the Murder Squad novels works as a stand-alone story. ‘The Secret Place’ takes place on a single day as Moran and his new partner Antoinette Conway question girls at the school about the murder of a teenage boy a year ago. In-between chapters narrated by Stephen Moran we also get flashback chapters revealing events leading up to and following the murder, which gradually bring us back to the present day investigation. It’s a beautifully written novel: when the detectives first enter the headmistress’s room Moran notices a “heavy framed oil painting of a nun who was no oil painting”. And when he observes a tension between Conway and the headmistress, who have met before, he notes “history there, or just chemistry”. Said in a different accent these phrases could pass for Raymond Chandler. ‘The Secret Place’ is a meticulous police procedural, cleverly plotted, carefully constructed and exquisitely written. As with ‘Broken Harbour’, alongside the murder mystery the novel is as interested in the new partnership between the two detectives – each weighing the other up as potential long-term colleagues. I’m really looking forward to reading Tana French’s new novel ‘The Trespasser’ which features the same two detectives but shifts the point of view to Antoinette Conway.



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