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Monday, December 15, 2014

The Secret Place by Tana French

I don't usually review murder mysteries, even though I read 3-4 times as many of them as I read anything else (maybe more.  I might be low balling that part of my life), but this book was #1 on Time magazine's best books of 2014 list, so it is elevated above its genre.

Tana French is one of my favorite new writers of detective fiction.  Her Dublin series, of which this is the fifth installment, is the essence of fiction written around a crime.  Chris Harper was a play-the-field high school student who was found dead on the grounds of his exclusive school a year ago.  The police get a new lead via a post card on a semi-private message board the girls at the school use to post messages that they want to have remain anonymous but they want to get off their chests that implicates someone at the school in the crime.  The card is turned over to the police by a student at the school who is also the daughter of a police detective.

All of that sounds like a straight ahead murder mystery.  What makes this book stand apart is the detailed descriptions of the various girls who were involved with the victim, as well as their relationships with each other.  French had the mean girls vibe down pat, and her prose is both engaging and real.  The story moves back and forth between the present and more than a year before when Chris Harper was alive and clueless that his life would soon be ended by one of his romantic entanglements.  It is an excellent tale from start to finish.

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