February 19, 2016

The Secret Place

The Secret Place
Tana French


(February 19, 2016)

A superbly handled school mystery that ably captures the weirdness of adolescent society. A boy from a nearby school was killed last year, with a hoe, in the grounds of an adjacent girl’s boarding school. Circumstances limit the suspects to eight girls – two sets of four roommates. The two sets detest each other, everyone dislikes the nuns who run the place, the investigating police officers neither like nor trust each other.

Formally, this is only barely a mystery (but, then, neither is The Maltese Falcon), and to the extent that it is a mystery, it suffers from the multitude of plausible suspects. There’s a solution, but it scarcely matters; many of the alternate suspects could have been made to turn out to be the culprit. But we don’t care about that: what we see here, and what’s done with wonderful skill, is the way everyone (including the two investigating officers) manages, in the end, to grow up.