The Secret Place: A Novel

Paperback | August 4, 2015

byTana French

not yet rated|write a review
“An absolutely mesmerizing read. . . . Tana French is simply this: a truly great writer.” —Gillian Flynn

Detective Stephen Moran has been waiting for his chance to join Dublin’s Murder Squad when sixteen-year-old Holly Mackey arrives in his office with a photo of a popular boy whose body was found at a girls’ boarding school a year earlier. The photo had been posted at “The Secret Place,” the school’s anonymous gossip board, and the caption says “I KNOW WHO KILLED HIM.” Stephen joins with Detective Antoinette Conway to reopen the case—beneath the watchful eye of Holly’s father, fellow detective Frank Mackey. With the clues leading back to Holly’s close-knit group of friends, to their rival clique, and to the tangle of relationships that bound them all to the murdered boy, the private underworld of teenage girls turns out to be more mysterious and more dangerous than the detectives imagined.

Pricing and Purchase Info

$18.99 online
$19.00 list price
In stock online
Ships free on orders over $25
Prices may vary. why?
Please call ahead to confirm inventory.

From the Publisher

“An absolutely mesmerizing read. . . . Tana French is simply this: a truly great writer.” —Gillian FlynnDetective Stephen Moran has been waiting for his chance to join Dublin’s Murder Squad when sixteen-year-old Holly Mackey arrives in his office with a photo of a popular boy whose body was found at a girls’ boarding school a year earl...

Tana French is also the author of In the Woods, The Likeness, Faithful Place, Broken Harbor and The Secret Place. Her books have won awards including the Edgar, Anthony, Macavity, and Barry awards, the Los Angeles Times Award for Best Mystery/Thriller, and the Irish Book Award for Crime Fiction. She lives in Dublin with her family.

other books by Tana French

The Trespasser: A Novel
The Trespasser: A Novel

Hardcover|Oct 4 2016

$31.42 online$36.00list price(save 12%)
In The Woods
In The Woods

Paperback|May 7 2013


Broken Harbour
Broken Harbour

Paperback|May 7 2013

$15.49 online$15.99list price
see all books by Tana French
Format:PaperbackDimensions:480 pages, 8.34 × 5.44 × 1.01 inPublished:August 4, 2015Publisher:Penguin Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0143127519

ISBN - 13:9780143127512


Extra Content

Read from the Book

***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected proof***Copyright © 2014 Tana FrenchHolly dumped her schoolbag on the floor. Hooked a thumb under her lapel, to point the crest at me. Said, ‘I go to Kilda’s now.’ And watched me.St Kilda’s: the kind of school the likes of me aren’t supposed to have heard of. Never would have heard of, if it wasn’t for a dead young fella. Girls’ secondary, private, leafy suburb. Nuns. A year back, two of the nuns went for an early stroll and found a boy lying in a grove of trees, in a back corner of the school grounds. At first they thought he was asleep, drunk maybe. The full-on nun-voice thunder: Young man! But he didn’t move.Christopher Harper, sixteen, from the boys’ school one road and two extra-high walls away. Sometime during the night, someone had bashed his head in.Enough manpower to build an office block, enough overtime to pay off mortgages, enough paper to dam a river. A dodgy janitor, handyman, something: eliminated. A classmate who’d had a punch-up with the victim: eliminated. Local scary non-nationals seen being locally scary: eliminated.Then nothing. No more suspects, no reason why Christopher was on St Kilda’s grounds. Then less overtime, and fewer men, and more nothing. You can’t say it, not with a kid for a victim, but the case was done. Holly pulled her lapel straight again. ‘You know about Chris Harper,’ she said. ‘Right?’‘Right,’ I said. ‘Were you at St Kilda’s back then?’‘Yeah. I’ve been there since first year.’And left it at that, making me work for every step. One wrong question and she’d be gone, I’d be thrown away: got too old, another useless adult who didn’t understand. I picked carefully.‘Are you a boarder?’‘The last two years, yeah.’‘Were you there the night it happened?’‘The night Chris got killed.’Blue flash of annoyance. No patience for pussyfooting, or anyway not from other people.‘The night Chris got killed,’ I said. ‘Were you there?’‘I wasn’t there there. Obviously. But I was in school, yeah.’‘Did you see something? Hear something?’Annoyance again, sparking hotter this time. ‘They already asked me that. The Murder detectives. They asked all of us, like, a thousand times.’ I said, ‘But you could have remembered something since. Or changed your mind about keeping something quiet.’‘I’m not stupid. I know how this stuff works. Remember?’ She was on her toes, ready to head for the door.Change of tack. ‘Did you know Chris?’Holly quieted. ‘Just from around. Our schools do stuff together; you get to know people. We weren’t close, or anything, but our gangs had hung out together a bunch of times.’‘What was he like?’Shrug. ‘A guy.’‘Did you like him?’Shrug again. ‘He was there.’I know Holly’s da, a bit. Frank Mackey, Undercover. You go at him straight, he’ll dodge and come in sideways; you go at him sideways, he’ll charge head down. I said, ‘You came here because there’s something you want me to know. I’m not going to play guessing games I can’t win. If you’re not sure you want to tell me, then go away and have a think till you are. If you’re sure now, then spit it out.’Holly approved of that. Almost smiled again; nodded instead. ‘There’s this board,’ she said. ‘In school. A noticeboard. It’s on the top floor, across from the art room. It’s called the Secret Place. If you’ve got a secret, like if you hate your parents or you like a guy or whatever, you can put it on a card and stick it up there.’No point asking why anyone would want to. Teenage girls: you’ll never understand.‘Yesterday evening, me and my friends were up in the art room – we’re working on this project. I forgot my phone up there when we left, but I didn’t notice till lights-out, so I couldn’t get it then. I went up for it first thing this morning, before breakfast.’Coming out way too pat; not a pause or a blink, not a stumble. Another girl, I’d’ve called bullshit. But Holly had practice, and she had her da; for all I knew, he took a statement every time she was late home. ‘I had a look at the board,’ Holly said. Bent to her schoolbag, flipped it open. ‘Just on my way past.’And there it was: the hand hesitating above the green folder. The extra second when she kept her face turned down to the bag, away from me, ponytail tumbling to hide her. Not ice-cream-cool and smooth right through, after all.Then she straightened and met my eyes again, blank-faced. Her hand came up, held out the green folder. Let go as soon as I touched it, so quick I almost let it fall.‘This was on the board.’The folder said ‘Holly Mackey, 4L, Social Awareness Studies’, scribbled over. Inside: clear plastic envelope. Inside that: a thumbtack, fallen down into one corner, and a piece of card.I recognised the face faster than I’d recognised Holly’s. He had spent weeks on every front page and every TV screen, on every department bulletin.This was a different shot. Caught turning over his shoulder against a blur of spring-green leaves, mouth opening in a laugh. Good-looking. Glossy brown hair, brushed forward boyband-style to thick dark eyebrows that sloped down at the outsides, gave him a puppydog look. Clear skin, rosy cheeks; a few freckles along the cheekbones, not a lot. A jaw that would’ve turned out strong, if there’d been time. Wide grin that crinkled his eyes and nose. A little bit cocky, a little bit sweet. Young, everything that rises green in your mind when you hear the word young. Summer romance, baby brother’s hero, cannon-fodder.Glued below his face, across his blue T-shirt: words cut out of a book, spaced wide like a ransom note. Neat edges, snipped close.I know who killed himHolly watching me, silent.

Bookclub Guide

1. What part of the author’s portrayal of adolescence rang the truest with your own experience? Of all the teenagers in the novel, which reminded you most of yourself at the age?2. Who did you first suspect killed Chris Harper? Who did you think wrote the note? Why?3. Detective Mackey’s sharp eye for human behavior is matched only by his determination to protect Holly. He warns Conway that Moran is ambitious, even to the point of disloyalty. Is this true?4. Similarly, Mackey explains to Moran why Conway is so disliked by the Murder Squad. Do you believe his reasoning or is he trying to play on Moran’s fears? If you were Conway, how would you have reacted to the other detectives’ behavior?5. There are episodes of the supernatural throughout the novel. Do you believe that Holly and her friends had magical powers? Did the students actually see Chris’s ghost? What was the dark shape that Moran noticed through the doorway?6. The title refers to the St. Kilda’s board where the girls post their secrets, but in what other ways could it be interpreted?7. The book’s chapters alternate between Moran and Conway’s experience solving the crime and the events leading up to the crime itself. How did this double narrative heighten your experience as a reader?8. Moran admits, “I love beautiful; always have. I never saw why I should hate what I wish I had” (p. 31). What does he mean? Does this affect his work on the case?9. French presents the relationship between Selena and Chris so that any of her friends’ differing perspectives on his feelings are plausible. What do Selena, Julia, Holly, and Becca each believe? Who do you agree with?10. Would Chris Harper’s murder case have been handled differently if it had occurred in a poor Dublin neighborhood?11. French writes that “when Holly thinks about it a long time afterwards, when things are starting to stay fixed and come into focus at last, she will think that probably there are ways you could say Marcus Wiley killed Chris Harper” (p. 95). What does she mean?

Editorial Reviews

“an absolutely mesmerizing read.”—Gillian Flynn  “a book full of giddy, slangy, devious schoolgirls who cannot be trusted about anything, at least not on the first, second, third or fourth rounds of questioning...Part of this book’s trickiness is its way of letting characters hide the truth behind the smoke screen of language and let both readers and investigators gradually figure out who is lying.” — Janet Maslin, The New York Times   “There are echoes of Leopold and Loeb and Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, but the language and landscape are unmistakably French’s, as is the way she excavates the past to illuminate the present.”—O Magazine   “Terrific—terrifying, amazing, and the prose is incandescent.” —Stephen King   “Tana French is irrefutably one of the best crime fiction writers out there…[The Secret Place is] dizzyingly addictive…don’t miss this one.”—The Associated Press   “clever and crude and vulgar and vicious in one breath and deeply, profoundly tragic in the next.”—Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times Book Review    “French is such a gorgeous writer: She’s a poet of mood and a master builder of plots . . . The Secret Place is another eerie triumph for French.” —Maureen Corrigan, The Washington Post   “French pegs each [character] with cold, cruel precision, one by one, like a knife thrower popping balloons…it makes the world of The Secret Place pop into prickly-sharp focus and full color.”— Lev Grossman, Time   “The Secret Place will keep you up all night.”— “The Secret Place may be French’s best novel yet and that’s saying something. She’s that good.”—The New York Daily News    “rendered vividly, with sharp dialogue and finely observed detail.” —The Wall Street Journal   “Gone Girl fans will revel in this enthralling thriller.”—People   “[Tana French’s] mysteries are less procedurals and more thoughtful, smart, stunningly clever and well-written literary yarns.”—USA Today   “A twisting, teasing, and tense murder mystery that, while impressive in the matter of whodunit, soars on the psychological insights of whydunit. The Secret Place rips you to shreds, too, but in all the right ways. While channeling teens and cops alike, Tana French has – OMG, like, totes, amazeball – written a novel that seems all but certain to be among the best mysteries of the year”—The Christian Science Monitor “The Secret Place is Tana French’s latest extraordinary procedural… French’s plots are inventive and her prose is elegant, but she’s always been more interested in character development. Here, her steely gaze brilliantly nails the baffled and baffling emotions of teenagers on the verge of adulthood.”—The Seattle Times   “French…writes beautifully.”—The Boston Globe   “The Secret Place is an absorbing take on a hot subgenre by one of our most skillful suspense novelists.”—   “[Tana French] simply nails it…I just could not put it down!”—BookPage   “The Secret Place simmers and seethes with skillfully crafted suspense, and French's prose often shines with beauty. But her strongest point is her characters, who are sharply observed and layered into complex and surprising people, revealed both in the wild memories of the flashback sequences and the crushing pressure of the interrogations in the present.”—Tampa Bay Times   “If you’re a thriller fan and haven’t discovered the wonders of Tana French, her latest, The Secret Place, will surely get you hooked, and by hooked, we mean feverishly reading till the wee hours… An exceptional thriller. Be prepared — but the ride will be worth it.”—Dallas Morning News   “Mesmerizing…French stealthily spins a web of teenage secrets with a very adult crime at the center.”—Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)   “Complex characters and a vivid sense of place are at the heart of French’s literary success…”—Booklist (Starred Review)   “[Tana French] has few peers in her combination of literary stylishness and intricate, clockwork plotting… Beyond the murder mystery, which leaves the reader in suspense throughout, the novel explores the mysteries of friendship, loyalty and betrayal, not only among adolescents, but within the police force as well. Everyone is this meticulously crafted novel might be playing—or being played by—everyone else.” —Kirkus (Starred Review)   “Tana French expertly lays bare the striations of age, class and gender that keep people apart while making them need each other more. With carefully crafted characters and motives, French not only makes a boarding school murder seem plausible, she makes the reader wonder how teenagers could ever live in such close quarters without doing each other grievous bodily harm.” —Shelf Awareness (Starred Review)