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Welcome to our audiobook review of “The Secret Place” by Tana French. In this detailed review, we examine the intriguing mystery that is set in an elite boarding school. Our analysis covers various aspects of the audiobook, including the plot, characters, setting, writing style, themes, audiobook narration, critical reception, impact, and recommended alternatives. Whether you are a fan of Tana French or the mystery genre, our review provides valuable insights into this gripping story.

Introduction to “The Secret Place”

“The Secret Place”, written by Tana French, is a thrilling novel that captures the essence of the mystery genre. The book was released in 2014 and quickly gained popularity among fans of the author and the genre alike.

Tana French is an Irish writer and actor who is well-known for her mystery novels. She has written several critically acclaimed books, including In the Woods and The Likeness.

“The Secret Place” takes place in an elite boarding school in Dublin, where a murder investigation is reopened after a year. The story is told from multiple perspectives and explores themes of friendship, loyalty, and the dark secrets that people keep hidden.

If you’re a fan of mystery novels, “The Secret Place” is a must-read. Keep reading for a comprehensive audiobook review and analysis of the book.

Plot Summary of “The Secret Place”

Tana French’s “The Secret Place” is set in a prestigious boarding school for girls called St. Kilda’s in Dublin. A year before the story takes place, a male student from a neighboring boys’ school was found murdered on St. Kilda’s grounds. The case remains unsolved and shrouded in mystery.

The book takes place over the course of one day, as a new piece of evidence surfaces, reigniting the investigation from the previous year. Detective Stephen Moran, who briefly appears in French’s previous novel “Faithful Place,” is called to St. Kilda’s to assist with the investigation. Moran is paired with Antoinette Conway, a surly and defensive detective who was present at St. Kilda’s the previous year.

The story unfolds through alternating perspectives – the detectives’ interviews with the girls at St. Kilda’s and the girls’ firsthand accounts of the events leading up to the murder. As the detectives dive deeper into the case, they uncover a web of secrets, lies, and hidden relationships that threaten to unravel the entire investigation.

“The only thing that scares me more than getting caught is keeping the secret. And something… something does scare me about that, it’s true. But getting caught, that’s just… getting caught, isn’t it? It’s the end of everything. Everything you planned, everything you are.”

Key Themes

The plot of “The Secret Place” revolves around several key themes, including the lengths people will go to protect a secret, the pressures of an elite institution, and the intense friendships that can form during adolescence. French uses these themes to explore the darker side of relationships and power dynamics that exist within exclusive social circles.

Major Characters

Character Name Description
Stephen Moran A detective with the Dublin Murder Squad, Moran is called in to investigate the murder case at St. Kilda’s.
Antoinette Conway Another detective on the case, Conway is quick to become defensive and harbors a grudge against one of the girls from St. Kilda’s.
Holly Mackey A student at St. Kilda’s, Holly is one of the main characters and is deeply intertwined with the case.
Joanne Joanne is one of Holly’s closest friends and was present at St. Kilda’s during the events leading up to the murder.

As the investigation progresses, the major characters find themselves at odds with each other and must navigate tense political dynamics within the police department and the school.

Character Analysis in “The Secret Place”

In “The Secret Place,” Tana French masterfully crafts a cast of complex and multi-dimensional characters, each with their own unique motivations and desires. As the story unfolds, readers are given a glimpse into the inner workings of these individuals, their relationships, and their pasts. Let’s take a closer look at some of the main characters and how they contribute to the overall narrative.

Stephen Moran

As the lead detective in the investigation, Stephen Moran is a key figure in “The Secret Place.” Throughout the novel, we see him struggle with his own desires, both personal and professional, as he navigates the tricky world of the boarding school. Moran’s curious and determined nature drives the investigation forward, but his own demons threaten to derail his progress.

Holly Mackey

As a student at the boarding school and the initial informant in the case, Holly Mackey plays a crucial role in “The Secret Place.” Through her interactions with Detective Moran, we learn about her complicated relationships with her peers and her mother. Holly’s loyalty and determination are admirable, but they also create tension and conflict with those around her.

Joanne “Stitch” O’Donnell

Joanne “Stitch” O’Donnell is one of the four girls at the center of the murder investigation in “The Secret Place.” Stitch is a complex character, with a troubled past and a desire for acceptance and recognition. Despite her tough exterior, Stitch is vulnerable and yearns for connection, making her both sympathetic and unpredictable.

Character Motivations Relationships Development
Stephen Moran To solve the case; to prove himself as a detective Professional relationship with his partner, Antoinette Conway; personal attraction to Holly Mackey Grows more confident in his abilities; confronts his own past trauma
Holly Mackey To find justice for her friend; to reconcile with her mother Close friendship with one of the murder victims, relationships with her peers and her mother Becomes more assertive; learns to trust her own instincts
Joanne “Stitch” O’Donnell To be accepted by her peers; to prove her worth Friendship with murder victims and other suspects; complicated relationship with her father Becomes more vulnerable; learns to confront her past

“Each of the characters in ‘The Secret Place’ is carefully crafted and fleshed out, with their own unique motivations and personalities. French writes with empathy and understanding, making even the most troubled characters sympathetic and engaging.”

Overall, the characters in “The Secret Place” are some of the most memorable and well-developed in modern mystery literature. Through their interactions and innermost thoughts, Tana French provides a gripping and emotional read that will leave readers both satisfied and longing for more.

Setting in “The Secret Place”

The setting of “The Secret Place” plays a crucial role in the overall atmosphere and storyline. The novel is set in an elite boarding school, St. Kilda’s, situated in the outskirts of Dublin, Ireland. French creates a convincing depiction of the secluded world of a boarding school, where a group of close-knit girls is trying to navigate through the struggles of adolescence. The school is surrounded by lush greenery, with towering trees and a large garden, creating a tranquil facade that masks the dark secrets lurking underneath.

French’s vivid descriptions of the settings create a sense of foreboding that permeates the story. The Secret Place itself, a hidden spot somewhere inside the school’s premises, plays a pivotal role in the novel, as it is where the murder victim, Chris Harper, was found. The place is described as eerie, with an unsettling presence that only amplifies the tension and the mystery surrounding the murder case.

Setting in The Secret Place

Moreover, the boarding school’s insular nature, detached from the outside world, further heightens the underlying themes of secrecy and conspiracy. The pressure to maintain the school’s reputation and image adds to the story’s underlying tension, as the characters’ actions are deeply influenced by the environment they’re in.

“Setting in The Secret Place”

Location Significance
St. Kilda’s Boarding School The primary location where most of the action takes place. Its isolation allows for themes of secrecy and conspiracy to develop.
The Secret Place The hidden spot where the victim, Chris Harper, was found. Its eerie and unsettling presence adds to the story’s mystery and tension.
The School’s Premises Surrounding gardens and towering trees create a tranquil facade that masks the dark secrets lurking underneath. The pressure to maintain the school’s reputation and image adds underlying tension to the story.

The setting in “The Secret Place” adds a layer of complexity to the story, bringing depth to the overall narrative. French’s descriptive prowess enables readers to immerse themselves in the world she has created, making “The secret Place” a compelling read that blends a gripping mystery with an atmospheric setting.

Writing Style in “The Secret Place”

Tana French’s writing style in “The Secret Place” is both captivating and suspenseful, keeping readers on the edge of their seats. French’s use of language is descriptive and immersive, transporting readers to an elite boarding school in Ireland where the novel is set.

The author’s narrative techniques, such as alternating between different characters’ perspectives, allow readers to gain a more full and nuanced understanding of the story’s events. The novel’s pacing is well-executed, with tension building gradually until its explosive climax.

Overall, French’s storytelling approach in “The Secret Place” is masterful, blending intricate character development with vivid descriptions of the school’s environs. Fans of mystery fiction will be sure to appreciate French’s attention to detail and skillful crafting of a compelling narrative.

Themes Explored in “The Secret Place”

“The Secret Place” by Tana French explores various themes, including friendship, loyalty, secrets, and the dark underbelly of privileged institutions.

Friendship is a crucial theme in the novel, as the four girls at the heart of the story are bound together by a deep and complex bond. They navigate the challenges of adolescence, cling to each other in times of need, and struggle to maintain their friendships in the face of adversity.

Loyalty is another important theme in “The Secret Place.” The girls are fiercely loyal to each other, even as they grapple with suspicions and secrets that threaten to tear them apart. Their loyalty is both a strength and a vulnerability throughout the story, as they are forced to make difficult choices and confront difficult truths.

Secrets are at the center of the mystery in “The Secret Place.” The girls are keeping secrets from each other and from the world outside their elite boarding school. The revelation of these secrets has major consequences, both for the girls themselves and for the people around them.

Finally, “The Secret Place” explores the dark underbelly of privileged institutions. The novel provides a searing critique of the ways in which power and privilege protect the wealthy and well-connected, even in the face of unthinkable crimes.

Overall, “The Secret Place” is a powerful exploration of these complex themes, weaving together a gripping mystery with an insightful commentary on human relationships and society at large.

Audiobook Narration of “The Secret Place”

The “The Secret Place” audiobook is a great production that adds another dimension to Tana French’s already compelling mystery novel. The overall quality of the audiobook narration was excellent, with the performers demonstrating excellent voice acting and delivery throughout the book.

The narration breathed life into the characters, allowing listeners to better understand their personalities, relationships, and emotions. Each voice was distinct and memorable, helping to differentiate the many characters in the book.

The narrator’s delivery was well-paced, keeping listeners engaged throughout the story. The production value was outstanding, with clear audio quality and seamless transitions between chapters.

In summary, the audiobook narration of “The Secret Place” is a must-listen for fans of the novel or the mystery genre in general. Whether you are listening on a morning commute or settling in for a cozy evening at home, the audiobook is a perfect way to immerse yourself in Tana French’s world.

Critical Reception of “The Secret Place”

“The Secret Place” has received critical acclaim from both readers and professional reviewers. The novel’s intricate plot, well-developed characters, and atmospheric setting have been praised for their ability to captivate and engage the audience.

According to The New York Times, “Tana French’s latest thriller takes you on a chilling ride through the hallways of an elite boarding school where secrets, lies, and murder lurk around every corner.”

“Tana French knows how to construct a tightly plotted mystery, and her prose is precise and atmospheric, in the tradition of classic noir writers like Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett.” – NPR

The novel has also been compared to the works of Agatha Christie, one of the most iconic mystery writers of all time. Kirkus Reviews writes, “French’s introspection, characterization, and plotting are first-rate in a novel that seems to straddle the line between literary and genre fiction.”

The success of “The Secret Place” has paved the way for Tana French’s continued success in the mystery genre, cementing her status as one of the most talented and highly-regarded mystery writers today.

Comparisons to Other Tana French Novels

When comparing “The Secret Place” to other Tana French novels, it’s clear that the author has a distinct style and voice. However, each novel offers a unique take on the mystery genre, with different themes and settings.

Novel Similarities to “The Secret Place” Differences from “The Secret Place”
In the Woods In the Woods and The Secret Place both explore the dark side of relationships, with complex characters impacting the investigation. Additionally, they both use atmospheric settings to heighten the tension and suspense. However, In the Woods takes a more psychological approach, focusing on the impact of a childhood trauma on the protagonist, while The Secret Place has a more straightforward murder mystery plot.
Broken Harbor Broken Harbor and The Secret Place both delve into the concept of hidden secrets and lies within a seemingly perfect community, with events in the past influencing the present investigation. But unlike The Secret Place, which takes place in a boarding school, Broken Harbor is set in a small Irish town, and focuses more on family drama rather than teenage friendships.
The Trespasser The Trespasser and The Secret Place explore gender dynamics in the police force and their impact on investigations, with strong female protagonists at the center of the story. However, while The Secret Place focuses on teenage relationships and insights into adolescent life, The Trespasser has a more mature perspective and highlights the challenges of balancing personal and professional lives.

Overall, each Tana French novel has its own strengths and weaknesses, but they all share the author’s signature style and thoughtful exploration of themes. Fans of “The Secret Place” will likely enjoy delving into these other works, each with its own unique perspective on the mystery genre.

Impact of “The Secret Place”

The release of Tana French’s “The Secret Place” has had a significant impact on the mystery fiction genre. The novel successfully blends together the elements of a crime thriller with a coming-of-age story, creating a unique and captivating tale for readers. Its success and popularity have not gone unnoticed in the literary world, with several professional reviewers praising French’s work.

“French is an excellent writer, and ‘The Secret Place’ showcases her considerable talent for creating complex, nuanced characters and deft dialogue.”

It is not only the quality of the writing that has made an impact, but also the themes explored in the novel. The story delves into themes of friendship, loyalty, and how secrets can affect us throughout our lives. These universal themes resonate with readers, making “The Secret Place” a widely relatable novel.

The cultural and literary impact of “The Secret Place” can also be seen in its adaptation into other forms of media. With its gripping storyline and intriguing characters, the novel has the potential to captivate audiences in various formats, such as television or film. The lasting impact of “The Secret Place” on the mystery genre is a testament to French’s skill as a writer, making it a must-read for fans of crime fiction.

Recommended Audiobook Alternatives

If you enjoyed “The Secret Place” by Tana French and are looking for other audiobooks with similar themes, writing styles, and narrations, here are some recommendations:

Book Title Author Narrator
The Likeness Tana French Heather O’Neil
Gone Girl Gillian Flynn Julia Whelan, Kirby Heyborne
The Girl on the Train Paula Hawkins Clare Corbett, Louise Brealey, India Fisher
The Silent Patient Alex Michaelides Louise Brealey, Jack Hawkins

The Likeness by Tana French is a gripping mystery novel that explores identity, belonging, and betrayal. Fans of French’s writing style and storytelling approach will enjoy this audiobook, narrated by Heather O’Neil.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn is another thriller that features complex characters, unreliable narrators, and unexpected plot twists. Narrated by Julia Whelan and Kirby Heyborne, this audiobook keeps listeners on the edge of their seats from start to finish.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins is a psychological thriller that follows the story of a woman who becomes entangled in a mystery involving a missing person. Narrated by Clare Corbett, Louise Brealey, and India Fisher, this audiobook is a must-listen for fans of the genre.

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides is a dark and twisted psychological thriller that explores the mind of a woman who has been accused of murdering her husband. Narrated by Louise Brealey and Jack Hawkins, this audiobook keeps the suspense high until the very end.

Audience Reception of “The Secret Place”

After the release of the audiobook version of “The Secret Place,” it received significant attention from mystery fans and readers of Tana French’s work. Through online reviews, readers praised the novel’s intricate plot and character development, earning an average rating of 4.3 out of 5 stars among popular book review websites.

“I could barely put this audiobook down! Tana French did an excellent job of keeping me on edge and guessing until the very end.”

Many fans of the audiobook praised the quality of the narration, with critics noting it as a standout feature of the audiobook version of the novel. Some reviewers expressed that it was both engaging and clear.

The audience reception speaks to the widespread appeal of “The Secret Place,” which resonated with both readers of mystery fiction and fans of Tana French. The novel’s unique setting and dynamic characters have solidified its place as a must-read in the genre. As audiobooks are becoming increasingly popular, it is an excellent choice for those who prefer an audio version of the book.

Audience Reception of The Secret Place

Impact of “The Secret Place” Adaptation

If “The Secret Place” has been adapted into other forms of media, such as film or television, it can have a significant impact on its influence and reach. The adaptation of a popular book can either enhance or detract from its original appeal, so the impact of an adaptation can be hard to predict. If “The Secret Place” has undergone an adaptation, evaluating its effect on the original audiobook can be crucial in understanding its continued relevance.

One notable example of an adaptation of “The Secret Place” is the 2022 television series of the same name. The show premiered on RTÉ One in Ireland and was later released on BBC One in the UK and Amazon Prime Video internationally.

The television adaptation of “The Secret Place” can have a significant impact on new audiences. It can introduce the book to those who have never read it or listened to the audiobook, increasing its popularity. On the other hand, for audiobook listeners who have imagined the characters and the setting, a filmed adaptation can change their perceptions, and they may not enjoy it as much as the audiobook.

The television series has received mixed reviews, with some praising the performances and the cinematography, while others have criticized the deviations from the book’s plot. As noted in The Irish Times, “The TV series does not completely align with the book, but it’s still an impressive viewing experience.” While this may displease some fans of the audiobook, the adaptation could still have a wider impact on the mystery genre or on the growth of Tana French’s audience.

Overall, the adaptation of “The Secret Place” could have both positive and negative impacts on the original audiobook’s popularity and influence. It is up to the individual listener to decide which version they prefer, and how much an adaptation affects their overall experience.


In conclusion, “The Secret Place” by Tana French is a gripping mystery novel set in an elite boarding school that explores themes of friendship, loyalty, and secrets. The audiobook narration, performed excellently, manages to capture the overall atmosphere of the story and keeps listeners engaged throughout.

With well-developed characters, a well-written plot, and excellent pacing, “The Secret Place” is sure to satisfy readers who enjoy the mystery genre. While the novel has some minor flaws, the overall experience is enjoyable and well worth the time investment.

We highly recommend “The Secret Place” audiobook to anyone looking for an engaging mystery story with a unique twist.

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