Mystery Week: Review: In The Woods by Tana French
As dusk approaches a small Dublin suburb in the summer of 1984, mothers begin to call their children home. But on this warm evening, three children do not return from the dark and silent woods. When the police arrive, they find only one of the children gripping a tree trunk in terror, wearing blood-filled sneakers, and unable to recall a single detail of the previous hours.
Twenty years later, the found boy, Rob Ryan, is a detective on the Dublin Murder Squad and keeps his past a secret. But when a twelve-year-old girl is found murdered in the same woods, he and Detective Cassie Maddox—his partner and closest friend—find themselves investigating a case chillingly similar to the previous unsolved mystery. Now, with only snippets of long-buried memories to guide him, Ryan has the chance to uncover both the mystery of the case before him and that of his own shadowy past.
I have been eye-balling this book for a very long time. I loved the cover, and the premise sounded intriguing enough but for whatever reason I always put it back on the shelf. Last September I was fortunate enough to sit down with Stacia Kane and Caitlin Kittredge. When I asked them what books they were reading or had recently finished and loved they both said “In The Woods by Tana French”. Well, that settled the deal…with two authors I respect giving it a thumbs up (for no other reason than just because) I knew I would finally be adding the book to my bookshelf.
Let me just say that I was surprised by how much I really, Really, REALLY enjoyed this book.
Why the surprise? Well, it’s complicated but I will do my best to explain. I wanted to include this book in our Passport to Ireland feature, but due to it’s sheer volume, I wasn’t able to complete it in time. Not only is the story long, but it is rich in descriptions and verbosity that could have been annoying had the author not been so talented a storyteller. This is complicated because I had just finished another rather long and verbose story that I wasn’t as impressed with and my reasons were because of how drawn out it seemed. In contrast to that book, In The Woods lengthy text didn’t wane on me one bit and the only conclusion I can come to is…because it is such a character driven book.
The narrator, Rob Ryan , is the lead detective on the death of a 12 year old in his hometown of Knocknaree Ireland. Adding to the plot is the fact that Rob left that town at the same age as the victim found murdered there due to the fact that his best childhood friends disappeared and he was found covered in blood with no recollection of what happened. Sounds good, right? Well the plot is secondary to the characters and their development.
As Rob and his female partner Cassie begin to investigate, Rob begins to emotionally unravel. As an adult that has distanced himself from nearly all reminders of his first 12 years, he is suddenly thrust into a situation where he must reconnect with the pain and hurt…but it’s not easy. As he begins to investigate on his own the lines between current case and cold case are blurred and as readers we are no longer certain which case he is supposed to solve.
Cassie, is a real spit-fire of a character and serves not only as the sound pillar of strength in Rob’s life, but his closest friend. We really see how much she cares about everything from doing her job as efficiently as possible and her partner. We also gain insight into her past and what has led to her being such a clever detective. With a background in psychology she not only is the department’s resident profiler, but she also begins to see the strain that the case is putting on her partner. The way in which she deals with him is not only remarkable, because Rob begins to act out, but touching.
Aside from the two leads, there are an array of interesting side characters that contribute so much to the overall feel of IN THE WOODS. Even the suspects are well developed and intriguing on their own. I would easily read about any number of their stories alone.
The only drawback was the ending. I won’t spoil it for you, but will say that I have mixed emotions on it. On one hand, I totally see where the author was going with it and was satisfied to an extent…but on the other, I just wanted complete closure.
For a debut novel, Tana French blew me away. I immediately finished IN THE WOODS and ordered the following titles written by the author. I can not wait to begin them, and get swept up in her thrilling world and emotional characters.
Also Reviewed By: Literary Sluts –