Review: In the Woods
Title: In the Woods
Author: Tana French
Genre: mystery, psychological thriller, adult fiction
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
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.
Richly atmospheric, stunning in its complexity, and utterly convincing and surprising to the end, In the Woods is sure to enthrall fans of Mystic River and The Lovely Bones. And look for French's new mystery, Broken Harbor, for more of the Dublin Murder Squad.
This book is so compulsively readable - it took me a while to get into, but I finished over half in one sitting!
In the Woods is about Detective Rob Ryan of the murder squad working on a case that has eerie ties to his past. As a child, he was once found in the woods with blood pooled in his shoes - it wasn't his own - and the children who were with him were never seen again. Now, over twenty years later, another murder brings Ryan back to the woods. Ryan is drawn to the possibility of bringing a repeat killer to justice, or at least unlocking his repressed memories. But it's not going to be easy...
What I really liked about this novel was that it was as much about people and their complicated relationships as it was about the actual murder. The case is a big part of the story, but it is not all about deductions and red herrings and investigation. I liked getting into Ryan's head and seeing his fears and insecurities - but then again, he is quite the unreliable narrator so I don't even know if there was more to him than he let on. I also really liked Ryan and Cassie's relationship. They had an incredible friendship, and their banter was a lot of fun to read - I was really sad that things ended up the way they did, but I again appreciate the way French portrays the complexity of people's relationships with one another.
The crime itself and its resolution were pretty disturbing - I did not see it coming at all. It's scary to think that people like that exist, and absolutely infuriating that some of them can get away with it.
I couldn't believe anyone could be so twisted as to poison and eventually murder her own sister. Rosalind was definitely a psychopath, and the scariest thing is that you don't even realize. I did feel like something was off with her, but I thought it was more of the catty teenage girl thing, not a manipulative psychopath thing. And worst of all, they couldn't even charge her because she admitted to everything without an adult guardian present! GAH!
A lot of people wrote in their reviews that this isn't a book that you read for answers, and I think that's pretty accurate. You aren't going to get a lot of answers about why people are the way they are, or what happened to them to make them that way. You will get some of what you're looking for, but part of the beauty of this book is its portrayal of broken people, and sometimes you just can't put them back together again.