I hope I have not missed the Tana French boat! Review: THE SECRET PLACE

The Secret Place
The Secret Place by Tana French
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have missed the Tana French boat, and I regret it. Standing on the shore, I see my fellow readers waving the raving review flags and cheering for me to join along, but I fear it is too late. Or, is it?

THE SECRET PLACE opens immediately with a gaggle of girls, following with a chapter, told in a detective’s narrative, referring to one of those girls by name: Holly. If you’ve read other Ms. French books, you already know both the detective and the girl very well. I do not know either. Here, I’m given the hint of a previous meeting, but not much in the way of summary or character introductions. Walking in with this disadvantage, I struggle to pull Holly out of the quickly introduced group of schoolmates.

I follow along as the girls text, chat, gossip, and chew gum in their teenage ways. They split into rivaling groups. They meet groups of teenage boys. The characters bounce around in my head with hardly any structure. The stories of these teens are told between chapters of the detective, trying to further his career from cold cases to homicide cases, who is trying to find answers as to why one of those boys was killed. If alternating perspectives, mixed timelines, and a slew of characters sounds confusing: it is! This is especially true, as I mention above, if you have not read the previous Tana French novels. I feel disconnected.

This saddens me because the quality of writing is superb. I like the slow unwinding of mystery, touched with a tease of paranormal mystique. Throw in a bunch of teenagers, acting as teenagers do, and the book twirls along splendidly. Even the detective, once I got to know him, is one of my favorite detectives I’ve read recently. I think this is Tana French’s strength: character exploration via natural character interaction. If I started with the proper footing, I think the loads of characters would be fine, even helpful, in telling this story. It ended up quite enjoyable.

While it took me a while to warm up to this book, it has whetted my appetite for more. It’s time to go back. It’s time to read INTO THE WOODS and the other Tana French novels. It’s time for me to discover a wonderful author whom I have missed.

Have you read THE SECRET PLACE or Tana French’s other novels? What are your recommendations for me?

The reviews for THE SECRET PLACE on Amazon seems to be mixed. You can see those reviews, along with a preview of the book, here: The Secret Place (Dublin Murder Squad, Book 5)

Happy Reading!


11 thoughts on “I hope I have not missed the Tana French boat! Review: THE SECRET PLACE

  1. booknerderie

    I adore Tana French and this entire series. This was the first of her Murder Squad novels that didn’t leave my head spinning and heart pounding. I felt like the teenage setting was tired. I am her fan for life though, as you said- the writing is superb. Great review.

      1. booknerderie

        Actually, you should read In the Woods next and then The Likeness and so on. While her books carry new stories, she plucks a secondary character from ITW and makes them the lead in The Likeness. She does the same for her third, fourth and fifth. So in essence, they all connect but the story/mystery to solve is completely fresh. Truly, all of her books are fantastic in my opinion. The Secret Place being my least favorite.

      2. booknerderie

        It’s my pleasure!! French’s novels were my first murder/suspense type novels and I was surprised by how much I loved them. But, then again, her writing is so hypnotic at times that I almost lose myself in the story. The first one is great! The second is even better! The Third is intense! The fourth is just creepy but good. We shall see what the sixth is like once it’s released 🙂 I’ll keep an eye out for your thoughts on the rest of this series!!

  2. bibliosa

    Yay! Welcome to French land! The last one left me a little high and dry, so I’ve been putting this one off, but the other ones were amazing. I’m still reeling from In the Woods, and I also think that one is the perfect place to start. Happy reading!

  3. Pingback: August Summary, Jungle Book Review, and No More Amazon Affiliate–whew! | The Avid Reader – Books, Books, Books!

  4. Lady Fancifull

    I adore Tana French – and ended up discovering i think the one before this, Broken Harbour, finding it tremendous, so then I read this one – and i did what i have never done with any other crime writer – went straight back and read the first four in order. So within 6 weeks, I had read the lot – and i got more and more impressed, as with such a short time space for total immersion I should have been feeling like I had spotted her tricks, things were getting a bit same-y – but that never happened. Of course, I’m now waiting impatiently for her to write another, having read the whole lot!


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