I can see why some people read only mystery and suspense novels. They are so. fun. Or at least, Tana French’s The Secret Place was so. fun. I mean, if you look past the murder of a teenage boy and the fraught and disturbing presentation of adolescent femininity and friendship. Yep. If you can focus just on the investigation, the unravelling of who did what and when, the certainty that everyone is lying all the time (but why? to whom?) then it’s a lot of fun.
I do think the novel takes a neat approach to the usual presentation of gendered violence and gender. Here we have a male victim found in the bushes (instead of your *cue the Law and Order soundtrack* half-dressed female victim) with the motive for murder (I’d rather not spoil) a complex impulse emerging from ideas of friendship and female solidarity. The police investigators have some – okay, fairly surface – analysis of the role of gender in policing.
So yep. I enjoyed reading this one because I (still and consistently unrealistically) convince myself that I’ll be able to unravel the mystery. And I (still and consistently) enjoy when I’m surprised by the reveal, and a surprise that admits the explanation as totally plausible. I will say that reading murder mysteries relies on your ability to not care that much about the murder of a person. Hardly the empathy exams. But if you’re okay with dwelling in the morally ambiguous place of revelling in the (fictional) murder of someone else… well, I know you are – you’re all listening to true crime podcasts (Serial, Criminal, Sword and Scale, Someone Knows Something, Lore, My Favourite Murder, and and and) and reading this genre. So go ahead. Enjoy. I’m not judging.