“The Secret Place” by Tana French – A Review

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In my opinion, none of Tana French’s later novels have ever lived up to “In the Woods” or “The Likeness.” I struggled through “Broken Harbor,” but somewhat enjoyed “Faithful Place,” so it was much anticipation that I picked up “The Secret Place.” Set against the backdrop of a posh girls’ school, Murder Squad detective Stephen Moran, finds himself pulled into a case involving a dead boy and Holly Mackey, daughter of Detective Frank Mackey. Though the premise of the novel (a mysterious card reading “I Know Who Killed Him” posted anonymously on a school notice board), immediately grabbed my attention, I found this quickly to be my least favorite French novel.

My primary problem has to do with the pacing and time frame of the novel. French chooses to set it in the span of a day or so, making the book feel overwhelming and implausible. Patricia Cornwell has done the same with some of her recent Scarpetta novels, and I find it so difficult to read. The characters of Moran and Conway (the tough female detective Moran works with), are also incredibly unlikeable. There was nothing that drew me to them, and it became difficult to care much about the plot. I have the same to say about the cast of characters we meet at St. Kilda’s; nobody particularly stands out or commands the reader’s attention.

“The Secret Place” beats out “Broken Harbor” as my least favorite Murder Squad novel. That said, if you are new to the series, definitely pick up French’s first two novels. I can promise you will enjoy them. And please, Ms. French, bring back Cassie and Adam!

Available for pre-order from Amazon.com and on shelves September 2nd, 2014.

xo The Book Bird

Disclaimer: I received an ARC courtesy of the publisher for the purpose of review.

“Ruth’s Journey” by Donald McCaig – a Book Review

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If “Rhett Butler’s People” and “Scarlett” haven’t already turned you off of “Gone With the Wind” Mitchell estate authorized prequels/sequels, there is a good chance that “Ruth’s Journey” will. However, chances are, if you’re a die-hard GWtW fan like me (it was the first “grown up” novel that I read and helped to fuel my love affair with reading), you’re still going to pick this up anyway… so, I may as well share my two cents. In the spirit of full-disclosure, I received an ARC of this novel courtesy of the publisher (for which I am grateful). I should also tell you that I was not able to make it more than 30% of the way through “Ruth’s Journey.” Yes, it was that bad.

While it’s nice that McCaig chooses to focus his attention on the woman who will eventually become the well-beloved character of Mammy, I found the synopsis of the book to be deceiving. You think you’re picking up a novel about Ruth/Mammy? Read the first few chapters and you’ll wonder if you’re reading the wrong thing. In fact, McCaig spends so much time on bad characters of his own creation, that I had to make myself stick with it until we got to some familiar faces. While I can’t tell you if the novel gets better (again I stopped about 30% of the way through… and I have to give myself a props for trying multiple times to ge tback into it), my guess is it doesn’t.

Lesson learned for the third time: don’t mess with a good thing and just re-read the classic every time you need your GWtW fix.

Available for pre-order from Amazon.com and on shelves October 14th, 2014.

xo The Book Bird