The Secret Place focuses on Stephen Moran and Holly Mackey from Faithful Place. Holly is now a student at a posh boarding school and Stephen’s career has stagnated since he helped Frank in FP. When Holly comes to him with a clue regarding a murder that happened on school grounds a year ago he jumps at the chance to get his foot in the door at the Murder Squad.
As always the writing is impeccable. French’s strength as a writer is the character development she creates within a few short pages. Each has their own personality and it’s realistic (sometimes so much so that you are uncomfortable getting to know them). One thing that also begins to stand out is that French doesn’t waste words. Her books are tightly written and each paragraph, sentence and word has a purpose.
Honestly, though, I was prepared to say this was my least favorite of the series so far and give it 4/5 stars (pretty impressive that my least favorite would still rate a 4). The story just didn’t pull me in quite as much. Partially because the characters – the teen girls at least – wore on my nerves. You can sometimes forget how awful you were as a teen. Realistic, yes. But I have no desire to go back to those years. And she does such a good job writing that you feel like you are there with them. I didn’t want to be at St. Kilda’s watching them rebel and lie to both the police and themselves. Even good girl Holly was a brat. Plus there was some woo-woo that was unnecessary. No spoilers so I’ll just say that these are mysteries and not paranormal novels. I didn’t see the point of bringing in anything supernatural. It seemed out-of-place and I still believe she should have edited this out.
Then, I read the last 25%. HOLY CRAP! The twists, turns and knots keep you on the edge of your seat. It takes something special to truly surprise me and French somehow did it again. And, yes, Frank is a d-bag in many ways but I love his character and hope he makes at least a cameo in each of the future installments. You want to hate him but can’t quite do it. There is something about him that draws you in even when he is manipulating everyone around him.
4.5 stars and almost 5. Without the woo-woo it would have been there.