The Secret Place

The Secret Place - Tana French Anyone who has ever stumbled across my Goodreads page or had a conversation with me about books or read my past reviews knows that I am absolutely in love with Tana French's books. So, my saying I loved The Secret Place should not exactly come as a surprise. Still, I'm going to say it anyway: I really really loved this book.

When I found out that French was writing a novel with Stephen Moran as the main character, I was excited. I loved Stephen in Faithful Place, and after Frank and then Mick Kennedy as narrators in the previous two books, I needed a French book with a younger, newer, less grizzled and set-in-his-ways detective. When I found out that The Secret Place would also involve a teenaged Holly Mackey and introduce another female detective, I was really, really excited. The only thing that would make me happier would be an announcement that French is revisiting the In The Woods storyline (I may have some problems about how that one ended, don't get me started.)

All of the above said, I had huge expectations for this book. I excitedly pre-ordered a signed hardcover copy, and couldn't wait for it to arrive so I could get started reading. For the most part, The Secret Place lived up to every expectation I had. Stephen is my absolute favorite French narrator of all time, and Conway is a tough female lead, something that I have missed in much of French's writing. The inclusion of Holly and Frank Mackey, both of whom are among my favorite French characters, only served to make me even happier. Even though I guessed the "whodunit" answer right from the get-go, the case itself was still as intriguing and heartbreaking as I have come to expect from a Tana French book, and I loved the shades of gray that she painted each character in: no one ever comes across as perfect in a French novel, and I love that.

It is worth noting that The Secret Place is, in many ways, a departure from French's typical style. For instance, this is the first of her novels to include alternating flashback chapters, told from a point of view other than the main narrator. Additionally, the entirety of the "present day" story is told in the course of a single day, something that I have never seen in a French novel before, and something which initially caught me very much off-guard. Lastly, The Secret Place included strong paranormal/supernatural imagery. Another review I saw labeled this out-of-character for a French book, and, although I disagree with the notion that none of French's previous novels have included supernatural elements, it is true that The Secret Place goes a bit further into supernatural themes than any of French's novels have gone before.

While the changes in style noted above took a bit of time for me to adjust to, I ended up liking them because of the way they worked in the context of the story. Furthermore, I am always impressed when a writer shows the ability and the willingness to change things up stylistically, so I have nothing but praise for French in this matter. That said, if you are a reader who prefers the status quo and who has already read and enjoyed French's previous novels, you will likely be a bit disappointed in The Secret Place.

If you haven't already read any Tana French novels, I will say, firmly, and unequivocally, that you should. She is, without doubt, one of my very favorite authors. When it comes down to it, my biggest complaint about The Secret Place was that it ended: and now I have to wait until French writes another novel for me to enjoy.