Detective Stephen Moran has been waiting for his chance to get a foot in the door of Dublin’s Murder Squad—and one morning, sixteen-year-old Holly Mackey brings him this photo. The Secret Place, a board where the girls at St. Kilda’s School can pin up their secrets anonymously, is normally a mishmash of gossip and covert cruelty, but today someone has used it to reignite the stalled investigation into the murder of handsome, popular Chris Harper. Stephen joins forces with the abrasive Detective Antoinette Conway to find out who and why.
But everything they discover leads them back to Holly’s close-knit group of friends and their fierce enemies, a rival clique—and to the tangled web of relationships that bound all the girls to Chris Harper. Every step in their direction turns up the pressure. Antoinette Conway is already suspicious of Stephen’s links to the Mackey family. St. Kilda’s will go a long way to keep murder outside their walls. Holly’s father, Detective Frank Mackey, is circling, ready to pounce if any of the new evidence points toward his daughter. And the private underworld of teenage girls can be more mysterious and more dangerous than either of the detectives imagined.
This is the fifth installment of six (to date) in the Dublin Murder Squad series. This series doesn't follow one detective through several cases, but rather it follows various members of the squad through subsequent cases and shifting turns in the lead role. Stephen Moran was a secondary character in #3, which also featured a younger Holly Mackey and a case involving her father's family. The book after this follows a case with Antoinette Conway as the lead and Moran as her partner, so it serves as a good counterpoint with a flipped perspective. However, Conway is very paranoid about the rest of her colleagues -- probably with good reason -- and I had to set the book aside for now in light of all the paranoia in the "real" world. I'd meant to review them in tandem, but I now need to move on to other things.
Anyway, I liked this book. It's told with alternating voices (I think it's the first of the series to vary from strictly first-person narration?), and it works for this story. One voice is Moran's actual-time narration of the investigation, and the other voice is an account of what was happening in the girls' school that led up to the murder. As it happens I listened to the audiobook version which employed two narrators, and that served as an additional clue to the different timelines and perspectives. Moran's chapters were straightforward and imbued with his overall earnest attitude, and the school chapters dealt with both petty and major intrigues among the girls. It was helpful as well as ominous that these chapters included milestones counting down the time until the murder.
A detective named Costello was Conway's previous partner and worked with her during the original investigation. He's mentioned a few times in both timelines, and the narrators pronounce his name differently! This was amusing more than distracting, and it's just like me to notice weird stuff like that. Though the female narrator's voice was sometimes hard to hear when I listened on the subway during commutes (those announcements are LOUD), on balance I enjoyed the audiobook format, as well as the story itself.