Tana French's Dublin Murder Squad series beautifully balances poetic prose, exciting mystery and engaging, wonderfully flawed characters.
The latter is French's true bread and butter, and it shines in The Secret Place through both the detective duo and the girls of St. Kilda's boarding school, where a murder has taken place.
Here's the thing: almost from the start I cared far more about the relationships between the teenage girls (two rival cliques handled in the most uncliched of ways) and the two detectives investigating the case than I did about the murder of a boy from the corresponding male boarding school.
And that's okay. French ensnares her readers not with sensational deaths or manipulative run-of-the-mill murder mystery tricks; she uses our humanity so that we have no choice but to find ourselves in the most unlikely of characters: the newbie murder detective, the daydreamy teenage girl, the high-strung headmistress.
Fans of French's former four novels will adore The Secret Place - especially in the last quarter of the novel, when Frank Mackey makes his cameo appearance and (as he always does) steals an already fabulous show.
RATING - 4.5