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A Whole Lotta Secrets
Today we begin with a psychological mystery then highlight two thrillers, one suspense-filled, another action-packed.
I am excited to recommend Tana French’s new Dublin Murder Squad novel to teen readers. I have enjoyed French’s novels since her 2007 debut, In the Woods. She is among the finest literary crime novelists writing today, and in The Secret Place she takes on the world of an all-girls boarding school and the intricacies of female friendships. This is not a book for readers who want fast answers and non-stop action. Rather, it takes the reader gradually deeper and deeper into the lives and minds of its subjects. I tried to make this clear in my review—it will reward patient readers who are attuned to detail and nuance.
While part of a series, it definitely stands alone. This is particularly true for teen readers because the only relationships that continue from past books concern two of the detectives. Series readers will enjoy watching these two men struggle with their new circumstances, but new readers won’t miss the extra layer.
For your suspense thriller readers, and particularly those who enjoy a good serial killer book, we have The Butcher by Jennifer Hillier. This is one of those stories where supposedly the serial killer was stopped years ago but, yikes, they may have fingered the wrong man. Extra points here for the Seattle foodie scene and the twists and turns of both the central plot and the troubled romance between the two main protagonists.
In The Furies, we find a non-stop action thriller with a science fiction angle–turns out that witches are the result of a genetic mutation. Sarah’s review, below, does a great job of describing the reading experience here, and which readers will enjoy it and why.
FRENCH, Tana. The Secret Place. 451p. (Dublin Murder Squad). Viking. Sept. 2014. Tr. $27.95. ISBN 9780670026326. LC 2014004500.
Four best friends boarding at the exclusive St. Kilda’s girl’s school outside Dublin are at the heart of French’s latest literary mystery. Chris Harper, a student at St. Colm’s, the neighboring boy’s school, was found dead on the grounds of St. Kilda’s. He’d been killed in the middle of the night, bashed in the head with a hoe. One year after his death, a St. Kilda’s student, Holly Mackey, brings new evidence to Stephen Moran, a young detective stuck in Cold Cases who yearns to work Murder. Moran seizes his chance, and takes it directly to the lead detective on the Harper case, Antoinette Conway. The Secret Place has multiple meanings. For one, it refers to the cypress grove where Chris’s body was found, which is also the place Holly and her three best friends, Julia, Selena and Rebecca, hang out late at night, sneaking out of the dorm using a stolen key. It was there that they all vowed never to date St. Colm’s boys. Now, a year later, intensive interviews by Moran and Conway reveal cracks in their sisterhood. This is a detailed psychological study of the players that slowly reveals the who and why of the murder. By including chapters that focus on the girls, in the past and present, along with chapters from Moran’s point of view, French achieves a stunning depth of motivation and consequence. She clearly understands the secrets and social dynamics of girls and the pure beauty of first love. Strong, patient readers will be entranced.—Angela Carstensen, Convent of the Sacred Heart, New York City
HILLIER, Jennifer. The Butcher. 352p. S. & S. July 2014. Tr $25. ISBN 9781476734217. LC 2013047237.
In the 1980s, policeman Edward Shank became a hero and eventually the police chief for gunning down “The Beacon Hill Butcher”—a serial killer who targeted young women. Now he’s moving into an assisted-living home and his grandson is given the family home. But Matt, an up-and-coming Seattle chef, makes a gruesome discovery in the backyard—something that makes him question his familial ties and his own sanity. Meanwhile, Matt’s girlfriend, Sam, is researching The Butcher for a true crime book because she believes he murdered her mother, two years after The Butcher was caught. As Sam arrives closer to the truth, she wonders if the discovery of her mother’s killer will be her own downfall. Even though readers know the identity of the killer at the very beginning, Hillier fills the novel with mystery, suspense, and plenty of surprises. Even the love story is unexpected. Matt and Sam have their flaws, which make them feel more real, and the nonstop action is set firmly in the fascinating foodie world of Seattle. Matt’s emotional turmoil is scary and heartbreaking, and the troubled relationship between Matt and Sam will resonate with teens. Give this to readers who love fast-moving serial killer books like Geoffrey Girard’s Cain’s Blood (Touchstone, 2013) and Barry Lyga’s I Hunt Killers (Little, Brown, 2012).— Sarah Hill, Lake Land College, Mattoon, IL
ALPERT, Mark. The Furies: A Thriller. 312p. St. Martin’s/Thomas Dunne Bks. Apr. 2014. Tr $25.99. ISBN 9781250021359. LC 2013031726.
John Rogers is depressed and lonely—but all that changes when he meets Ariel at a bar in Greenwich Village. He falls for her instantly, but their romantic tryst is interrupted by gunshots. John, a former gang member and military boot camp dropout, knows more about evading bullets than the average person, but Ariel is a professional. Ariel’s family are called the Furies—witches (but don’t call them that!) who have discovered the fountain of youth as a protein mutation that can only be passed through females. John is fine with Ariel’s explanations of the violence and her life story that spans hundreds of years—he’s in love. While many of the Furies’s male companions have initiated a rebellion, John is happy to leave his life behind and dedicate himself to Ariel and her family’s plan to save the world from evil. Readers who suspend their disbelief are in for addictive non-stop action akin to an all-night marathon of the television show 24. The reading level is low enough for quick reading, the action is fast, and the theory that real-life witches were behind many historical events is fascinating. Give this to fans of Michael Simmons’s Finding Lubchenko (Penguin, 2005), Andrew Smith’s Grasshopper Jungle (Dutton, 2014), or any medical or shoot ‘em up thrillers.—Sarah Hill, Lake Land College, Mattoon, IL
About Angela Carstensen
Angela Carstensen is Head Librarian and an Upper School Librarian at Convent of the Sacred Heart in New York City. Angela served on the Alex Awards committee for four years, chairing the 2008 committee, and chaired the first YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adult committee in 2009. Recently, she edited Outstanding Books for the College Bound: Titles and Programs for a New Generation (ALA Editions, 2011). Contact her via Twitter @AngeReads.
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