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)