Tana French’s The Secret Place

“It hits her at the bus stop, in the cool-edged morning air. At first she thinks she actually is sick, that what she’s doing has called down some curse on her and now all her lies come true. She hasn’t felt it in so long and it tastes different now. It used to be vast and dark-bloody; this is metallic, this is alkaline, this is like scouring powder eating through your layers one by one. It’s fear. Holly is afraid.”

 

As a huge fan of Tana French’s work, I was extremely excited for the arrival of her fifth novel, The Secret Place, preordering it months in advance of its recent publication. For those who are unfamiliar with her work, I’d like to say that French is unlike most of the writers out there. Not only is her writing amazing, but her novels as a whole are as well. She has a way with language and story telling that is truly atmospheric and at times haunting. More than once have I gone to sleep after reading one of her novels and woken up in a fit of panic. They’re just that good. Although she tries a somewhat different approach in her newest novel that I am less than fond of, the core of her remains the same.

The Secret Place tells the story of a murder that happened at an all girls’ school, and the investigation of it a year later. Detective Stephen Moran is brought back as the main character (this time) who leads the investigation, as well as Holly Mackey and her father Frank – all of whom were in French’s third, and arguably best novel to date, Faithful Place. The novel opens with Holly paying a visit to Detective Moran at the Dublin police department where she produces a photograph that she found on a bulletin board at her school, St. Kilda’s. The photograph is of Chris Harper, the boy who was murdered on the grounds of St. Kilda’s the previous year. And there is a caption. It reads: I Know Who Killed Him. Moran brings the new evidence to Antoinette Conway, one of the detectives who had originally worked the case. Together, they return to St. Kilda’s in hopes of finally solving the murder…but are they too late?

How far would you go to protect your friends, knowing that they were somehow involved in a crime? Would you stay silent forever, or would you find a way to get it out in the open, to once and for all uncover the whole truth? These are the questions that circulate from beginning to end in The Secret Place, questions that ring true for many of us. We befriend others who we have things in common with, and, as our bonds deepen, our loyalties toward them increases as well. But…how far would you go? Some say that no line exists for true friendship, but that is just not possible. There is always a line. Told in alternating narratives between past and present, French weaves a tale of friendship where loyalty is so strong that it is the only thing that stands in the way of solving the murder.

 

IMG_4735

S J Watson’s Before I Go to Sleep

“My life…is built on quicksand. It shifts from one day to the next. Things I think I know are wrong, things I am certain of, facts about my life, myself, belong to years ago. All the history I have reads like fiction…they exist, but as shadows in the dark. As strangers, they crisscross my life, connecting, disconnecting. Elusive, ethereal. Like ghosts.”

How would you feel if every time you woke, your mind erased itself? You have no idea where you are or who’s sleeping next to you. You go to the bathroom and see pictures taped up to the wall and mirror, pictures of you with this other person, smiling and aging. It’s only then that you glance into the mirror and gasp because your appearance has changed so much that you almost don’t recognize yourself…until you look into your eyes and realize that it’s you. How would you feel?

For Christine, in S.J. Watson’s debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, this is precisely the case. Suffering from a rare form of amnesia, she can retain memories in the span of a day, but once she goes to sleep they are lost and the next morning she has to go through the process of learning them all over again. Her memories are not completely gone though; sometimes they come back to her, and she writes them down. With the clock constantly running out, will Christine be able to reclaim her memories and her life for good, or will they forever be lost in the abyss of her mind?

In truly brilliant prose, Watson brings the reader into Christine’s mind as memories flood back to her and she tries to put the missing pieces of her life together in hopes of remembering what caused her amnesia in the first place. It makes you realize just how lonely and frustrating it would be to wake up every morning, day in and day out, and never know who you are, and despite those painful memories that you would wish you could forget, it is those memories that help define us, help make us who we are today, and without them, we would be lost, just like Christine.

20140428-101623.jpg