Friday, January 20, 2017

"The Secret Place," by Tana French

Apparently my substantial time away from mysteries has ended for the present. (I have written more than once here about how I go in phases or cycles regarding mysteries: sometimes I binge on them, and other times I am completely uninterested in them for months or years at a time.) This recent "return" to mysteries started with "discovering" Louise Penny (thank you, KS!) and then I finally tried the Donna Leon mysteries I had been hearing so much about for so long, partly because I was reminded of them by my friend Mary (see my posts of 11/12/16 and 11/25/16). Most recently, I have read new (to me) author Tana French’s fifth mystery, “The Secret Place” (Viking, 2014). I had vaguely heard about her work, and had read a couple of good reviews of her newest (2016) novel, “The Trespasser.” “The Secret Place” takes place at a girls’ boarding school in Ireland, and I am drawn to novels about girls, women, girls’ schools, women’s colleges, and such. A major focus of the novel is the friendships of a group of four teenaged girls at the school, and of their “enemies,” another group of four girls. The girls’ school is next to a boys’ school, and of course there is much going back and forth, licitly and illicitly. The murder that precipitates the story is of one of the boys, but on the grounds of the girls’ school. The case has gone cold, when a year later one of the girls brings a big clue to a police detective, who talks his way into being part of the reinvestigation of the case. The two main detectives, one male and one female, are a quirky, eccentric pair who had never worked together before. The case is slowly unveiled, as layers and layers of clues are revealed. As with all good mysteries, the careful plotting is very important but is not enough; the characters have to be interesting, there has to be more at stake than “whodunit,” and the writing must be strong and compelling. These are all characteristics of "The Secret Place." I was impressed by the novel, all 452 pages of it, and am now very inclined to read more of French’s work. So now I have a pleasant problem: how to fit in reading more of these three “new” (to me) mystery novelists’ work with my usual reading.
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