"The photo on the card shows a boy who was found murdered, a year ago, on the grounds of a girls' boarding school in the leafy suburbs of Dublin. The caption says I KNOW WHO KILLED HIM. Detective Stephen Moran has been waiting for his chance to get a foot in the door of Dublin's Murder Squad--and one morning, sixteen-year-old Holly Mackey brings him this photo. "The Secret Place," a board where the girls at St. Kilda's School can pin up their secrets anonymously, is normally a mishmash of gossip and covert cruelty, but today someone has used it to reignite the stalled investigation into the murder of handsome, popular Chris Harper. Stephen joins forces with the abrasive Detective Antoinette Conway to find out who and why. But everything they discover leads them back to Holly's close-knit group of friends and their fierce enemies, a rival clique--and to the tangled web of relationships that bound all the girls to Chris Harper. Every step in their direction turns up the pressure. Antoinette Conway is already suspicious of Stephen's links to the Mackey family. St. Kilda's will go a long way to keep murder outside their walls. Holly's father, Detective Frank Mackey, is circling, ready to pounce if any of the new evidence points toward his daughter. And the private underworld of teenage girls can be more mysterious and more dangerous than either of the detectives imagined." --
In form, this is a classical mystery. There's a limited number of possible suspects; eight girls who could have posted the anonymous note, and a limited time; the entire book taking place over one single, exhausting day. Teenage girls are a cipher, with their tight bonds with one another and ability to freeze out adults. Holly and her friends share a tighter bond than most, having boarded together in the same room for a few years and sharing the same distain for the games being played by their contemporaries. Conway knows that once they are allowed back together the detectives will have no chance of finding out what went on that Spring night in the early morning hours and so she and Stephen work to decipher Girlworld, with its shifting allegiances and language all its own.
French returns to the theme of her first book, that of what makes a good partnership, the effortless give and take, the feeling as though you can read the other person's thoughts. Conway and Moran are very different from Rob and Cassie, but their working relationship, begun under duress, begins to develop into something that Stephen hopes might continue, and not only because he is desperate to move up into the Murder Squad.
Holly and her friends are another set of relationships. Having roomed together for years, having formed an allegiance against the queen bee and her follower, and having become closer to each other than to their own families, they each have secrets, ideas of what really happened and strong reasons to protect each other. French beautifully captures the cadences of girl speak, the stylized patterns that disguise real feelings and deep communication.
They always act like they're having an amazing time, they're louder and high-pitched, shoving each other and screaming with laughter at nothing. But Becca knows what they're like when they're happy, and that's not it. Their faces on the way home afterwards look older and strained, smeared with the scraps of leftover expressions that were pressed on too hard and won't lift away.
I thoroughly enjoyed The Secret Place. It reminded me of both the masterful Skippy Dies, Paul Murray's look at boys attending a posh boarding school in Dublin and Megan Abbott's latest books about teenage girls.
Detective Stephen Moran works Cold Cases, but what he really wants is to transfer to the Murder Squad - “Murder is a brand on your arm, like an elite army unit’s, like a gladiator’s, saying for all your life: One of us. The finest.”
When 16-year-old Holly Mackey brings him some evidence relevant to a still-open case of a boy found murdered a year earlier on the grounds of Holly’s school, Stephen may have his chance. Holly hands him a photo that was posted on “The Secret Place” - a notice board at St. Kilda’s for the girls to put up any anonymous message they want to get out of their systems. This particular photo showed Chris Harper, the dead boy, with a caption reading “I know who killed him.”
Stephen takes the card to the Murder Squad officer in charge, Detective Antoinette Conway. Conway, as a woman, is not part of the “old boys club” of Murder, and as Stephen intuits, “every day had to be a fight” for her. She is rough and abrasive. Stephen doesn’t care - he just wants to help work the case.
The two head over to St. Kilda’s, where the girls start the semester:
"...screaming triple exclamation marks and jump-hugging in corridors that smell of dreamy summer emptiness and fresh paint; they come with peeling tans and holiday stories, new haircuts and new-grown breasts that make them look strange and aloof, at first, even to their best friends.”
But all that golden brightness is offset by the dangerous power of the girls’ developing bodies, by expectations, by the fear of not being acceptable or accepted, by the vicious cliques that divide their loyalties, and by the extensive networks of lies that bind all of them up in webs of deception. Somehow, Conway and Moran have to find a way to break through all that and get to the bottom of Chris’s death. And to do it, they have to get on with each other and support each other, especially when Holly’s father Frank Mackey, detective from Undercover, arrives to protect his daughter’s interests.
Discussion: Tana French is so good it almost hurts. This book is not as fast-moving as the previous books, but allows readers to savor every bit of the author’s skill with capturing dialogue. The writing is excellent; French is expert at describing a scene so that you can see it yourself, and setting a mood so that you actually sense it, whether menace or hope or shyness or insouciance. She conveys the thoughts of the characters so well we know exactly how they feel - such as Stephen's fascination with the lifestyle of the wealthy combined with his alienation from it, his wistful admiration of the uniqueness of innocent love, and his insight that once you are an adult, the opportunity to feel like that is forever lost to you. He muses:
"When you stop being a kid, you lose your one chance at that too-tender-to-touch gold, that breathtaken everything and forever. Once you start growing up and getting sense, the outside world turns real, and your own private world is never everything again.”
Stephen’s interactions with the girls at St. Kilda’s brings it all back to him:
"You forget what it was like. You’d swear on your life you never will, but year by year it falls away. How your temperature ran off the mercury, your heart galloped flat-out and never needed to rest, everything was pitched to the edge of shattering glass. How wanting something was like dying of thirst. How your skin was too fine to keep out any of the million things flooding by; every color boiled bright enough to scald you, any second of any day could send you soaring or rip you to bloody shreds.”
He wistfully and aptly describes the things young kids in love say to each other: “Sappy stuff, once-in-a-lifetime stuff, stuff to make you cringe and break your heart.”
I could also feel the force of Conway’s defensive hostility and the reason she got that way. And the growing connection between Moran and Conway - so skillfully done! As for the teenage girls: there is no way to contain my admiration for the way French brought them to life in all their desperation and craving and hope and horror. Just outstanding!
Evaluation: I highly recommend the books by Tana French, but I understand that the audio versions, which bring out the accents and dialect in a way a written book does not, are even better. If you haven’t read any of Tana French yet, or just want to try one, I would suggest Faithful Place - my favorite of her books, which will introduce you to the characters you meet again in this book (although they are all perfectly fine as standalones).
I found the writing style cloying at times, larded with descriptive clauses added one after the other like beads on a string that grows too long. Sometimes less is more. Someone needs to speak frankly to Ms. French: this book really needed trimming.
I found the structure frustrating, with chapters alternating between the contemporary detectives trying to solve the crime and flashbacks to the teens before the crime, these flashbacks seen through the eyes of said teens. I found these teen chapters generally tiresome. The reviewer who compared those parts to Pretty Little Liars was dead-on, except PLL has humor and pace, and is fun. The Secret Place just meanders, and then stops to soak the reader in an extravagant and Gothic atmosphere. Which is great if you like that, admittedly; this is a book that I think will split readers into camps, and unfortunately I fall into the other camp.
As a mystery, it's not really. I think most readers will identify the killer pretty quickly, as well as the killer's reasons, and the role of others in the killer's orbit. It is a little sad, and a little brave, that the book lets you get to know the killer from his or her own perspective.
I just found the book a tiresome slog, for the most part. But at the same time I'm sure many other readers will enjoy it.
This story centered around a near Cold Case of the murder of a teenage boy at a girl's boarding school. The characters of the girls in attendance lack dimension and made it very difficult to plow through the story. The pace was too slow in spots which made me as the reader want to say "Get on with it" and the high school girls just were too over the top caricatures of what I suppose boarding school girls are believed to be. Sadly disappointed.
The language stopped me in my tracks sometimes, it’s that good. Some say the wording is overblown, but considering a lot of the story is about teenagers, and girls specifically, I think it works because a lot of what they do, say and feel is intense. It struck me as pretty dead on and made me thankful I can never be a teenager again. Joanna’s comment about how Holly and her lot weren’t special was really telling. The insecurity and doubt combined with arrogance and power make for a really unattractive person. That made me glad I’m not a parent and I feel really bad for those who have to navigate the shark-like feeding frenzy that is teenage life these days. Yeah, sure it’s fiction, but damn if it doesn’t feel like the kind of young adults running around these days.
The density of the time frame combined with the flashbacks made the narrative feel closed in which echoed the circumstances of both the students and the investigators. Thrown together in the first place and then put into that cauldron of cover-up, Stephen and Conway were amazingly successful, even if they had to lie and manipulate in order to get their solve. I guess one good turn deserves another. Stephen played every situation really well even when Frank tried to mess with their heads. So sad that Frank’s pathological manipulation claims Holly as a victim in the end. Not that she’s entirely innocent of the same thing, again, she is a Mackey.
Unlike in In the Woods and Broken Harbor, there’s no direct back-story for Stephen, which considering the restrictions on the investigation, was appropriate. We do get some idea of who he is as a person through reflections on what’s coming at him. Surrounded by women he does his best to thread Scylla and Charybdis and I thought he did really well with those little Sirens at the end. I hope he makes it on the squad though this book was less about the detective(s) and more about the lives of young women in boarding school and what they have to cope with and inflict on each other.
I know French likes to throw in a bit of the uncanny in her novels. Ryan’s boyhood incident from the first novel, the unknown home invader in Broken Harbor, stuff like that but the girls’ telekinesis wasn’t necessary here; there didn’t seem to be a definite point to it. The ghost stuff, too, was a bit strange given that these weren’t little kids. I guess maybe to play up that some of them weren’t much emotionally older than children, and that most of them tried like hell to keep that secret. That could have been it, but it still seemed strange.
I wonder how much of Holly’s mother’s reminiscing at the end of the book drove Holly’s actions about what to do with her knowledge and situation with her classmates; the realization that no matter how closely bonded you think you are at that age, it probably won’t last. The interleaved timelines made this difficult to figure because we see the possible influence at the end of the novel, but it’s such a twisted story that it’s hard to remember her actions at that point in the timeline. Actually, that’s the novel’s biggest flaw - the shifting time-frame and the countdown to Chris’s death. It kept me from being able to clearly see each girl, her actions and the repercussions of those actions. It was much harder to parse any clues and maybe that was the point. That and the fact that I had to spend so much time with kids makes it my least favorite of the Dublin Murder Squad series so far.
Conway is a good candidate for the next novel and I’m sort of dreading it because she’s already boxed herself into a problem with the rest of the squad. Sure there are probably good reasons for it (the one Mackey drops is enough, but he’s right about the way she handled it), but I couldn’t stop thinking about Cassie who got along fine with the same people. Maybe it was because of her partnership, but I don’t know. Conway’s story is sure to be more fraught with tension and conflict and depending on how French handles it, or shades it with something positive, it could be a slog. That’s if she’s next. Given how this book backtracked a couple of titles to get to Stephen, almost anyone could pop out of the woodwork.
Detective Stephen Moran really wants to move from the Cold Case squad back into the Murder Squad which is why he decides to deliver the card which Holly Mackey has brought him to Antoinette Conway in person. Strictly speaking he should just hand the card over but he is angling for an invitation to sit in on wherever Conway's investigation takes her. Conway is excited with what looks like a breakthrough ina case that has been stagnating for most of a year.
It comes as a surprise to realise that the main events of THE SECRET PLACE take place in the space of a day. That is not entirely true because Chris Harper has been dead a year and some of the narrative predates his death by a further fifteen months or so. The various strands of plot lines are cleverly juxtaposed, almost seamlessly, although the reader is never in any doubt about which time frame they are in. From time to time the reader is told how much longer Chris Harper has to live.
The novel focusses on the girls at Kilda's boarding school who had most to do with Chris Harper. In that sense the questioning covers old ground, looking for something that Conway and her team missed in the days immediately after the murder. Solving the crime is incredibly important to Conway - she feels she is on the brink of being dropped from the Murder Squad. It is important too to Shen Moran that he establishes a good working relationship with Conway, and there are times when he fears he has messed up his chance.
The novel too is a study of how the teenage female mind works. It explores the spitefulness of gangs of girls in the closed boarding house atmosphere. It also looks at the damage that the events in the boarding house grounds have already inflicted on the school. But above all - who wrote the card and left it on the noticeboard, and, most importantly, who killed Chris Harper?
A complex and rewarding read.
This novel reminded me that I must read more from the Dublin Murder Squad series.
Author - Tana French
In an upscale boarding school for girls, a young boy was found murdered over a year ago. Teenage Holly Mackey finds a photo pinned to a board, a community board the school calls The Secret Place; the photo is of the murdered boy, sixteen year old Christopher Harper. The caption under the photo reads, I KNOW WHO KILLED HIM.
Holly is not like the other girls who go to St. Kilda's, she doesn't come from a well off family, she is the daughter of a cop. A Detective and she knows what she has to do. But she cannot take this to her father so she takes it to the only cop she knows who has treated her like an adult.
Cold Case Detective Stephen Moran has been waiting for his chance to get the attention of Dublin’s Murder Squad and move up in the department. So when teenage Holly Mackey walks in with the photo of the deceased boy, he knows this is his one chance to work a homicide and get a shot at being part of the Murder Squad. Only problem is, the Detective he would have to work with is Antoinette Conway, a tough as nails female Detective who guards her secrets even better than the school of teenage girls they will have to investigate.
Together Moran and Conway investigate the year old murder of Chris Harper and unravel the rumors and innuendos of teenage lust and hate amongst bitter cliques and fierce enemies. Between loyalty and lies. Only Conway doesn't trust Moran, his ambitions or his ties to Holly Mackey and her father. The school itself would rather keep this death in the past and its influential patrons are not above calling the Detectives superiors to stop the investigation.
In one day, Moran and Conway must find the killer and who put the photo up in the Secret Place.
Tana French is wicked. The lilt and drive of her novels are fierce and there is a very strong ring of truth to all her characters. Young Detective Moran must weigh between his sense of the truth and his own ambitions as he unravels the truths amongst all the innuendos and lies told by this entire school of teenage girls. Truths that will both shock and sadden you.
If you ever hated high school. French shows you why in HD and surround sound. The cliques between the cool kids and the outcasts are powerful and honest. Both with blood on their hands and heartlessness to preserve their place above all else.
The mystery is tight and well woven, each strand unraveling slowly with more than a few red herrings to have you guessing until the very end. The dynamic between the two Detectives is intriguing as they struggle to work together while not fully trusting one another.
A terrific and very well written novel. Another great mystery by Tana French.
Chris Harper was found murdered a year ago in a secluded grove on the grounds of St. Kilda's boarding school. The case is still open with no new leads.....until a card with a photo of the dead boy is found on the school's 'secrets board'. It's enough to reignite the investigation.
The book takes place over the course of a day as Detectives Stephen Moran and Antoinette Conway re-interview the students.
I quite like the two detectives and would be interested in reading more of this pair. What had me somewhat bored was the repetitiveness of the girls' conversations. You can only listen to so many OMG's, Hellloooo's, Excuse me's and more. Yes I believe it's quite true to teenage conversation, but in audio format it just started to grate. And I found myself tuning out and thinking of throwing in the towel on this one. Then French threw in a bit of a different element - otherworldly if you will. Intrigued again, I kept listening.
French is a good writer and some of her turns of phrase and descriptive phrases are really well done. Nuance and intuition are a large part of Moran's personality and investigative style. These nebulous concepts are given concrete descriptors that really painted vivid images and settings. The exploration of cliques and the world of teenagers is vividly portrayed. French paints a frightening 'mean girl.'
The book is quite long - at 464 pages, I think it could have been pared down a little. Much of the narrative seemed to repeat itself with the clues as to who the killer is (very) slowly doled out. I kept listening as I really wanted to know which girl was the culprit And the answer is there, but the actual ending was a bit confusing - I had to go back and listen a few times. And at the end, I really wondered why the supernatural element was included. It would have been a good book without it.
There were two readers - Stephen Hogan and Lara Hutchinson. Both are Irish actors, so the accents are real. Hogan embodies the mental image I had created for this character. Hutchinson captures the toughness of Conway. Both narrators read the voices of the teenage girls and caught the sarcasm, the anger and the nastiness of them.
On reading other's reviews, I'm seeing the recommendation to not start with this book if you're new to Tana French, that it is decidedly different from other books in the series. Fair enough - I'll try the next book French releases. (I'm one of those readers who can't won't go backwards in a series)
This book had me hooked from the first chapter! such a different way of writing within the suspense/crime genre.
I wanted to know more ever page I turned in fact I had to step away from this book at one point as I started to speed read not because I was bored far from it! It was because I wanted to know who killed him!!!
I enjoyed reading about the characters that were under suspicion and the growing trust of the two detectives I don't want to write to much about the storyline as I don't want to give anything away I just urge anyone reading this to give this book a read and clear your diary!!
I am now going to go on amazon and check her other books out!!!
Detective Steven Moran hasn’t been working murder cases, he’s been stuck with minor crimes, but he gets his chance to move up when Holly Mackey comes to him with evidence that someone at her exclusive all girl boarding school knows something about a year old unsolved murder that happened on the campus grounds. Moran brings that note to Antoinette Conway, the tough, touchy, rough edged detective still in charge of the case, and the two of them spend a long tension-filled day at St. Kilda’s, interviewing students, fending off the subversion of fellow officers, and chasing down clues--much to the dismay of the headmistress who wants to avoid upset parents and negative publicity. All the action in the book happens in the compressed time period of that one day, with alternate chapters flashing back to events at the school leading inexorably toward the murder.
As the two detectives try to sort out which girl posted the note claiming to know who killed Chris Harper, a formerly popular student from the neighboring boys’ school, the candidates quickly narrow to eight possibilities in two friend sets, groups that are very different except for the adolescent intensity of their intragroup connections. One group has a manipulative queen bee/mean girl leader who constantly tests the devotion of her minions, gullible girls willing to go to great lengths please her.They follow the cool rules that to them are as obvious and immutable as laws of nature--I mean there are some things you just DON’T DO, like wear jeans and no makeup to a fancy dance, and certain people just DO NOT belong together, like duh it’s WRONG and someone should MAKE SURE they break up.
The friends in the other set, which is Holly’s group, are instead rule breakers adept with snarky comebacks. More bonded to each other than they are with their families they revel in not being part of the crowd, celebrate, support, or at the least tolerate their differences, and are fiercely devoted to and protective of each other. Someone from one of the two groups saw something or knows something or maybe even did something about Chris Harper’s murder, but as the girls close ranks within their groups truth remains elusive.
The shaky, nascent but growing partnership of Detectives Moran and Conway adds one more angle to the plot’s potent friendship dynamic. Both detectives grew up on mean streets far from the homes of the wealthy students they are questioning, and though they work well together they don’t completely trust each other. I’ve enjoyed all of the books in the Dublin Murder series, some more than others, and The Secret Place is now among my favorites. All its elements add up to a dense, hard to put down story that had me churning through its chapters. I read an advanced review ebook copy of this book supplied by the publisher through NetGalley. The opinions are mine.
THE SECRET PLACE continues the Dublin murder squad series of books. This is one day. It begins with Holly (the teenage daughter of a police detective, Frank Mackey, who is a main character in an earlier Tana French novel, FAITHFUL PLACE) bringing a suspicious card to Stephen Moran (another detective who appeared in FAITHFUL PLACE). From there, a year-old murder that took place at Holly's Catholic boarding school is reinvestigated. Moran and another detective, Antoinette Conway, reinterview eight girls, including Holly.
Every-other chapter of the book is a flashback to the times leading up to and since the murder. These flashbacks involve Holly and her classmates, 15- and 16-year-old girls.
Sometimes the flashbacks seem silly and implausible. This is especially true when the girls claim to see the murder victim's ghost. The ghost is even used by the detectives to deal with one of the girls. Come on, these are teenagers, not 6-year-olds!
But if you just go with it and accept the girls' immaturity and dirty mouths, this book is another winner for Tana French and her Dublin murder squad series. She's one author who is so predictably good that it's always safe to preorder her books.
I won an ARC of THE SECRET PLACE through goodreads.com.
The Secret Place by Tana French will blow you away with the suspense each page ratchets up the suspense till you are so anxious you need to finish the thriller. I am not sure how Tana French will be able to follow up The Secret Place as she has blown the bloody doors off the genre. Tana French delivers on every level with The Secret Place she ticks all the boxes for what you want from a thriller writer. The book may be over 500 pages long but there are no wasted words no bulking the book out.
Detective Stephen Moran has not seen Holly Mackey since she was 9 years old and a witness to a murder he had investigated and her father was also in the Dublin force. One morning she arrives at the Cold Case unit with a card in her hand a card from a notice board known as The Secret Place, which revealed someone knew more about a murder that had taken place a year before at her private school St Kilda’s.
Moran goes down to the murder squad and finds the lead detective on the murder of Chris Harper at St Kilda’s to tell her of the new information that has come to light. He asks if he can assist her, Antoinette Conway is not as sure as she tends to work alone but they go to St Kilda’s as the tag team.
In one day Conway and Moran have to work quickly to discover who knows more that they are saying and if possible discover the murderer. St Kilda’s are not pleased to see the return of the detectives on the gentile establishment of what is St Kilda’s School for Girls. As they work the case they are given titbits that make it seem as if they are pulling teeth out of the girls. They know they have eight suspects but who will be able to crack the case wide open?
Tana French also takes us back over the year before and the life of Chris Harper and how long he has left to live. We also see what Holly and her friends get up to at the Court, at school and the various things they do as boarders. So what we see is the full story of who what and when for the why you have to work that out for yourself or wait till you have read the book.
I know who killed him and if you want to find out then read this book as it is one of the best suspense thrillers I have read in a long time. The prose that Tana French uses is clear and crisp; the imagery that she builds of the girls and the detectives is brilliant. It comes across that these may be teenage girls but they are no fools intelligent and articulate who make the detectives work for every piece of information they need for the case.
You will feel pace speed up as the day heads towards the climax and Tana French keeps the reader on tenterhooks and it will shred your nerves and do nothing for you if you suffer from anxiety because you so want to know how this book ends. Tana French has blown the bloody doors off the suspense genre and has written a brilliant and stunning suspense thriller.
The Secret Place, by Tana French, is the 5th book in the Dublin Murder Squad Series.
Set against the backdrop of an elite, all-girl’s boarding school, the reader becomes enmeshed with a teenager’s struggle to belong, while maintaining the freedom of independence and experiencing the pains of stepping closer to adulthood.
When 16 year old, Holly Mackey, brings Stephen Moran a postcard claiming, “I know who killed him”, he seizes the chance to join the homicide squad, if only for a few hours. The postcard refers to a dead-end case, nearly a year old, of a murdered boy from the neighboring Colm School.
Antoinette Conway, herself an outcast amongst her peers, headed the original investigation and begrudgingly allows Stephen to join her as they set out to interview and once again delve into the case. Soon it becomes a race against time, stubbornness, and the fleeting shadows of truth, where distrust and sabotage appear to rule.
The author, through flashbacks and the piecing of many differing stories together, as told by the various students, leads the reader through a maze of adolescent innocence, loyalty, and fears.
This is a page turner, and a great addition to the series. If you haven’t had a chance to read Tana French, don’t feel overwhelmed thinking you must read the books in order. Each is a stand-alone story, with characters brushing past one another and creating a richer world.
French doesn't need such charity, though. She gives us very well-rendered and believable kids. Special kids? Surely, but not unbelievably special. Living under pretty quotidian circumstances. As an adolescent, I didn't understand my female peers and as an adult I still find myself scratching my head, so I can't say French's depictions of the intimate lives of adolescent girls is spot on . . . but when, for instance, I read one of her character's justification for her self-administered "prison tattoo," it really does feel like I'm getting the straight dope.
French brings magic and intrigue to the setting and the characters without destroying or even much compromising their credibility and integrity. Very good stuff.
At the beginning I was frustrated by the switching back and forth; I just wanted to stick with the detectives and their interrogations, but eventually the other characters grew on me and I settled down to the rhythm. A criticism that I am sticking to, though, is that this novel is far too long. There were pages and pages where Stephen and Conway debated which of the girls was telling the truth and sections on the girls paranormal powers (which seemed designed only to make them feel special and specially bonded...?)
I liked the Stephen and Conway dynamic, but bringing Frank Mackey in at the end threw the balance off. I'm also proud to say that I had kind of worked out the ending.
Favourite sentence (of a mother who has had plastic surgery and wears false eyelashes): "She looks sort of like a person but not really, like someone explained to aliens what a person is and they did their best to make one of their own."
Holly, daughter of Detective Frank Mackey, turns up at the Cold Case desk of Stephen Moran with a postcard. The card has a photo of a murder victim, Chris Harper and the cut out words 'I know who killed him', the tag line of the book, this starts a chain of events that will have a huge impact on Holly, her friends and Stephen.
The victim was killed the previous year in the grounds of an upmarket girl's boarding school and was a boarder at the boy's 'partner' school. The case has gone unsolved and the initial suspect has be proven to have an alibi so things had gone quiet but when Stephen takes the card to Antoinette Conway she sees an opportunity to prove herself and takes Stephen along with her.
The story is told partly through the eyes of Stephen and also through back tracking to short scenes in the lives of the pupils of St Kilda's and Colm's schools in the build up. There are elements that have a supernatural dimension with ghosts and paranormal activity that I feel felt slightly contrived at times but do add an extra ethereal, other-worldly atmosphere to the book.
French creates a very tense, emotional and claustrophobic book, there are some interesting twists and turns but I did suspect the murderer from early on, but that didn't spoil the slow unfurling of the whys and wherefores of the murder.
I think this is a book that would resonate strongly with the YA market but even though teenagers are central to the story the dynamic between Moran and Conway is intriguing and well written.
The story has a couple of endings and the extra section at the end was the element that brought it down to 4 stars rather than 5 as I felt the book had reached a powerful ending and the last bit introduced a new character, to me, and maybe made more sense if we knew these characters from other books. That is a slight niggle but overall an excellent crime novel with good characterisation, beautifully created locations and tense, exciting story-telling.
My only slight complaint was the sort-of phonetic spelling. I wasn't used consistently which was a bit confusing. However, the teen speak, while perhaps a bit over the top, really helped to draw the them versus us line.
I would definitively suggest reading this book, its a real page turner!
I received this book as a First Reads win.