By Starla Pointer • Staff Writer • 

Book: The Secret Place

“The Secret Place” is one of those novels you won’t want to put down. And yet, you’ll hate to reach the final pages, because you don’t want it to end.

Irish author Tana French is a master at examining events from all sides, digging into the psychology of the characters and describing both people and places. In “The Secret Place,” she also shows off her excellent grasp of the way people communicate — by voice, by look and by social media. The way she writes the dialogue for the teen-age characters is so true-to-life — and, consequently, so disturbing.

The novel is about the nature of relationships, our overwhelming need to be part of a group — or not, and how we shape our circumstances to fit our ambitions.

Set in an exclusive Catholic boarding school, it examines the friendships between two sets of young women and the intense rivalry between the two groups. It also delves deeply into the push-pull that develops between two ambitious police detectives, both of whom are proud to be considered outsiders as they go diligently about their work.

The detectives arrive more than a year after a young man has been found brutally murdered on the school lawn. The original investigation into his death stalled quickly, in large part due to the way the girls closed ranks and kept potential clues to themselves.

But now new information has surfaced in the form of a mysterious postcard tacked up on a bulletin board near the school’s art room. “I know who killed him” is printed across a photo of the dead teen.

Is the clue true, or just the work of a troublemaker? Is the killer a student or staff member at the school? Will the girls allow the detectives to see behind their school uniforms and makeup, revealing both the strengths of and the chinks in their bonds?

It’s great writing by French, who’s a true master of her craft.

I do have one quibble: This is the second of French’s five books to have “Place” in its two-word title. That’s just maddening.

“The Secret Place,” Tana French, Viking, 2014

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