The Secret Place by Tana French

Stars: 4/5

Audiobook (of around 20.5 hours) completed in 3 days.

Genre: Mystery/ Thriller

Ever wondered which are the most difficult cases to solve?

The cases which involve a bunch of teenagers who are so close that they would not open their mouths against each other even if that means putting their own lives on the line.

Take 8 teenagers as the basic ingredient, add some secrets as spices … And some, or wait, an equal amount of detective instincts and Tada! You get Book One of the five best thrillers of 2014!

The book starts with a glimpse of four friends- Holly, Julia, Selena and Rebecca about to join St. Kilda’s all girls boarding school.

If I’ve learned one thing today, it’s that teenage girls make Moriarty look like a babe in the woods.

Detective Moran for the girls of St. Kilda

And then, Holly Makey, a smart daddy’s girl (another detective), goes to Detective Stephen Moran to handover an important clue found in ‘The Secret Place’ of St. Kilda’s. It’s a note ‘I know who killed him’ with a photo of a handsome guy named Chris Harper killed an year ago. Here is when Antoinette Cornway, a feminist, no nonsense detective, who originally had the Murder Case, comes into picture. They both ‘almost’ team up to solve the case and head over to St. Kilda. The investigation starts as to who made this clue and murdered Chris in the first place.

I’m only talking to one person here. If that’s you, then you need to shut up and listen. If it’s not, then you need to shut up because no one’s talking to you.

That’s exactly the kind of person Cornway is.

We are told the story in an alternative narrative of Detective Moran and Holly’s group.

Remember, oh remember back when we were young, so young.

Never thought I’d lose you and never thought I’d find you here.

Never thought what we’ve lost, could feel so near.

I’ve got so far, I’ve got so far left to travel…

The song that’s played every time something is about to happen…

The story further dives into the lives of students of St. Kilda and the all boys Cullen’s Boarding school. The Queen bae being Joanne and her three minions *coughs* friends.

Chris was ‘admired’ by all the girls of St. Kilda’s. He had had secret relationships with many of them.

The Secret Place (where the clue was found) is a board in the school on which the girls scrawl their secrets out. It also refers to a secret meeting place of Holly’s group (where Chris’ body was found).

It is revealed that someone stole the key to venture out of the St. Kilda’s school at night (The same time Chris was killed) which is later revealed to be Rebecca. Moreover there was a duplicate key owned by Joanne.

Both Holly’s group and Joanne’s group had motive and resources to kill Chris and so are the prime suspects in the case.

Detective Moran, with his admirable skills of reading the body language and communicating, inquires the eight of them. Cornway warns them against the murderer with the threat that he would kill the witness as soon as the detectives leave the grounds.

Many of the girls swear to seeing Chris’s ghost. This terror is effectively used by the detectives in bringing out the secrets from all of them.

They get further clues from Chris’ phone which went missing after his murder. It is later found that Julia had been sending those clues to put the detectives on the wrong scent, so as to protect Selena, who had a short relationship with Chris and is believed by her to be the murderer.

In the end, the murderer is revealed to be Rebecca. Her reason- Arrival of Chris in Selena’s life had ruined their friendship, strained the lives of all four of them and their vow to never date a Cullen’s guy was also broken.

It remains a mystery to the detectives as to who had put the original clue on The Secret Place, who knew the killer was Rebecca all along.

We, being the readers, have a a benefit here. The clue was there by none other than Holly, although unaware of who the murderer was, a conversation with her mother had somehow clicked a switch in her and she wanted the killer to be caught. (Maybe because she realised that even friendships don’t last forever. Even they are as ephemeral as human lives. That people change. Or she realised that the friendship she lost to Chris Harper’s death will be regained by helping the detectives in catching hold of the killer.)

Never thought I’d lose you and never thought I’d find you here…

The way of narrating the timeline to Chris death is portrayed in a very interesting manner.

Takeaways:

She hears all the voices from when she was little, soothing, strengthening: Don’t be scared, not of monsters, not of witches, not of big dogs. And now, snapping loud from every direction: Be scared, you have to be scared, ordering like this is your one absolute duty. Be scared you’re fat, be scared your boobs are too big and be scared they’re too small. Be scared to walk on your own, specially anywhere quiet enough that you can hear yourself think. Be scared of wearing the wrong stuff, saying the wrong thing, having a stupid laugh, being uncool. Be scared of guys not fancying you; be scared of guys, they’re animals, rabid, can’t stop themselves. Be scared of girls, they’re all vicious, they’ll cut you down before you can cut them. Be scared of strangers. Be scared you won’t do well enough in your exams, be scared of getting in trouble. Be scared terrified petrified that everything you are is every kind of wrong. Good girl.

Never, I repeat, never be The Good Girl.

Everything is not as simple as it seems. Everyone is not as innocent as they seem to be.

Trust your instincts. If something feels dodgy to you, if someone feels dodgy, you go with dodgy. Don’t give the benefit of the doubt because you want to be a nice person, don’t wait and see in case you look stupid. Safe comes first. Second could be too late

I say, go with dodgy.

Body language and Communication skills matter a lot as showcased by Detective Moran.

The tiniest things can result into something huge.

Something might be downright wrong according to you, but for someone else, it may be the only right thing.

The brightest things or lives could turn out to be the darkest ones…

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