Book Review of The Secret Place (Dublin Murder Squad, Bk 5)

The Secret Place (Dublin Murder Squad, Bk 5)
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Helpful Score: 4

Past entries in French's Dublin Murder Squad series provided readers with finely written narratives that detailed not only the solving of the current investigation, but also the detectives who work the cases. The Secret Place, to put it mildly, is a departure. While I don't want (or expect) French to write the same book over and over, I have come to expect a certain level of quality that I think is missing here.

The writing is, for the most part, still strong. French at her best is one of the most able writers around. But the prose sometimes drifts into vagueness and self-conscious literary pretension, especially toward the end. The story is still partly about the detectives, but there isn't much depth to their portrayals.

Instead, the focus is eight teenaged girls, students at a posh boarding school. There's a day-long marathon investigation of a cold case murder, with frequent flashbacks that return to the period around the crime. We see the girls squabble, text, emote, and evade their way through the tangled events.

The problem is that murder and teen angst don't provide nearly enough story for 450+ pages. So there are pages of earnest and slang-filled conversations, a dusting of the mystical (I have no clue why), musings and feelings and golden light. There is too much fill, when what the book really needs is much tighter editing and a more cohesive story.