I’ve seen Tana French’s name pop up on CBR over and over, so I decided to see what all the fuss was about. This book was SO GOOD. I’m sorry it took me so long to listen to y’all.
This story has layers like a decadent, lovingly-crafted cake. On the surface, it’s a detective story. A year ago, a murdered student was found on the grounds between a boys’ school and a girls’ school. Even with intense pressure from parents and school administrators to solve the case as quickly as possible, newbie Detective Conroy isn’t able to find an answer. The case goes cold, and Conroy has even more of a struggle to fit in to her sexist squad than she already did. Detective Moran is in the Cold Case department, but jumps at the chance to work with Homicide when a new clue in the year-old murder lands in his lap. The two team up, dive into the weird world of super-rich boarding schools, and do their best to save the day.
If it was only the top layer, it would still be a very good book. But there’s so much more! There are two groups of suspects: groups of four friends who were known to be able to sneak out of the girls’ school at night. One group is the popular girls, and one group is the misfits. Who doesn’t love a juicy tale of high school misfits taking down the popular kids? But it’s not that simple. French does amazing things with these girls over the course of a year (told from now, with input from the detectives, and flashbacks to when the crime first happens). They grow wiser in astonishingly real ways, teaching themselves a Feminism 101 course along with their regular studies as they realize how limiting it is to only live your life according to what other people think and expect of you. The misfit girls make a pact not to care what others think, and not to date, and the freedom that allows makes them amazing, but also earns them the hatred of the popular crowd, who doesn’t understand this break from normality. Plus, the dead boy flirted with one from each crowd, so tensions and suspicions are high.
And on top of THAT, the detectives are also learning some life lessons. Moran desperately wants to join the Murder squad, but knows Conroy’s reputation could kill his chances. So he wants to work with her on the case to get in an important solve, but he also doesn’t want to get too close to her. But as they get to know each other better, he sees how unfair her situation is. Is it better to stand by what’s right and hurt your own reputation, or go with the crowd and achieve your goals and higher social status? It’s the same struggle the students are having. Which counts more – what you think of you, or what others think of you?
SPOILERS for some stuff I wasn’t expecting. In my last review, I was expecting supernatural and got none. In this book, I wasn’t expecting anything, and got some great Witches of Eastwick stuff. The misfit girls bond over some newly-discovered abilities, and it’s really cool and helps bring them even closer together, but I’m not sure it added to the plot, really. Plus, it just kind of peters out at the end.
So it’s a murder mystery that makes you think about more than the whodunit. Growing up is hard, and it just keeps going! You have to keep growing up, even when you think you should be there already. There are no easy answers, but standing by your friends and doing the right thing are important. I thoroughly enjoyed this one, and will definitely be reading more Tana French. Thank you, Cannonball!
“I have self-esteem. I have enough self-esteem that I’m not going to wear something stupid just because everyone else is.” Becca
“OhmyGod, here, have some more duh.” Holly