Detective Stephen Moran has been stuck on the Cold Case squad ever since he made his move to claim responsibility for a solved case in Tana French’s last book, Broken Harbor. But when Holly Mackey comes to see him, he thinks he’s found his opportunity to join the Murder squad.
A witness in a previous case, Holly is now 16 and attending St. Kilda’s, a private girl’s school where Chris Harper, who attended a nearby boy’s school, was found dead the year before on the grounds. It is so far an unsolved case, and Holly has information about it.
Holly explains that the school has a bulletin board called the Secret Place, where the girls can post anonymous messages. The school thinks this board is preferable to allowing the girls to use a social media site. That morning Holly found a message that said, “I know who killed him.” As she is a cop’s daughter, she removed it carefully with gloves and put it in a plastic bag to bring to Moran.
Moran takes the note to Antoinette Conway, the lead on the Harper case, hoping she’ll allow him to work with her. She has not had a lead in the case for awhile and is eager to follow it up. Once the two detectives begin looking into it, they find their suspects for posting the note and for being the murderer limited to two groups of four girls—one Holly’s group of close friends and the other a bunch of mean girls lead by a girl named Joanne.
Although this is not my favorite of French’s novels, she writes a strong, atmospheric mystery. I believe she is the premier writer of contemporary Irish crime fiction, and her work in many ways reminds me of that of Gillian Flynn. I like that her books are not series, yet they are linked by a minor character in one novel being the major character of another.