Tuesday, April 14, 2009

In the Woods by Tana French (a review)

In the Woods by Tana FrenchAs far as I know, the first person to mention my fledgling blog was Trish at Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin’? who (thrillingly) reported that she had read—and enjoyed—Someone Not Really Her Mother by Harriet Scott Chessman based on my review. So it was about time I returned the compliment and read a book recommended by Trish.*

In the Woods by Tana French is told from the point of view of Rob Ryan, a detective in the Dublin police force whose first murder case brings back memories. A young girl has been found murdered in the woods, in the same spot where, some 20 years ago, young Ryan and two of his friends disappeared. Ryan was the only one found—his two friends were never seen again—but to this day he can’t remember what happened.

It took me a little while to get into this book—for the first 20 pages or so I wasn’t sure I was going to like Rob’s voice. But as soon as he “stopped falling in love with [his partner Cassie] and started to like her immensely” (p. 18), I started to like him too. The dynamic between Rob and Cassie is fun, and Cassie is a kick-ass partner, one of the best female characters I’ve come across in a mystery novel. French’s writing style is literary and yet down-to-earth; her characters are flawed and realistic. Despite the book’s length (nearly 600 pages), I zipped through the novel, wanting to find out what had happened.

In an attempt to find more to say about this book without giving too much away, I’ve been randomly dipping back into it and getting sucked into the story all over again. My favourite passages have to do with Ryan’s struggle to remember what happened to him, such as this one:
I had started trying—for the first time, really—to remember what had happened in that wood. I prodded tentatively around the edges of it, barely acknowledging even to myself what I was doing, like a kid picking at a scab but afraid to look. . . . To some extent, at least, it worked. Unleashed, my mind threw out great streams of images like a slide show running on fast-forward, and gradually I learned the knack of reaching out to catch one as they flew past, holding it lightly and watching as it unfurled in my hands.” (p. 242)
Unfortunately, the ending was disappointing. Part of the reason I love reading mysteries is that the mystery is solved by the end and whoever did it is brought to justice. This may be simplistic and unrealistic, but I want that satisfying feeling of closure at the end of the book (especially if it contains fairly creepy elements such as this one does). However, French doesn’t deliver that here.

Despite my disappointment with the ending and despite the fact that once again, this was a book that violated my rule of “no psychopaths or serial killers, no terror and no blow-by-blow descriptions of murder or its results,” In the Woods was an intriguing read and I’m looking forward to reading its sequel, The Likeness, which is apparently even better!

To read other reviews, visit these blogs:
Bloggin’ ‘bout BooksBook AddictionBook ChatterConfessions of a BibliophileFarm Lane BooksHey Lady! Whatcha Readin’?In Search of GiantsLesley’s Book NookLive and Let DiMy Random Acts of ReadingPresenting LenoreRead WarblerRhapsody in Books WeblogS. Krishna’s BooksYou’ve GOTTA read this!

This is the fourth book I review for the New Authors Challenge.

*OK, I have a confession to make. It was only in writing up this review that I realized that In the Woods wasn’t the best book Trish read in 2008. That honour belongs to its sequel, The Likeness!


  1. I liked this too, but also wished the ending was more complete. I wanted closure!

  2. This is in my TBR pile - glad to see it's good.

  3. I enjoyed it. It felt a bit unfinished towards the end but you know what... realistically, it would have been too "pat" if Rob's case was solved by the end.

    I know the second book, The Likeness deals with Cassie but does not revist Rob so since you liked Cassie, you will probably like the second book. I have yet to read it myself but plan to at some point.

  4. I'm glad to hear that you liked this one. I've heard many mixed reviews of this book.

  5. Tara, exactly! That part of it was frustrating.

    Kathy, I hope you enjoy it. I'm looking forward to your review!

    Ti, I must admit I don't agree with the idea that resolution would have been too pat. Isn't that the point of mystery novels? It's certainly why I read them. I want resolution! Instead, it felt like the whole backstory was a tease and hey, maybe French didn't know where to go with it and that's why she didn't write it? It was a let-down. Having said that, I definitely plan to read the second book! (Despite the spoiler warning I included before this comment, I can't bring myself to say too much about the plot so publicly!)

    Jo-Jo, I guess I feel like my review is mixed too (did it not come across as mixed?), but I still recommend the book!

  6. I wanted to read this until several bloggers kept saying how disappointing the ending was. The whole reason I wanted to read it was b/c I wanted to learn what the cop had forgotten.

  7. I felt exactly the same as you about the ending - she didn't resolve the more interesting of the two mysteries!

    Oh, and I wanted to let you know that I've moved my blog, Books and Movies - here's the new blog address: http://booksandmovies.colvilleblogger.com

  8. I completely agree with your assessment of the ending. It ruined the book for me.

  9. My husband bought The Likeness a few months ago not realizing it was a sequel. To me, the plot sounds more interesting than this one, but I've heard good things about both books. Thanks for the honest review.

    Diary of an Eccentric

  10. I really like when people are expressing their opinion and thought. So I like the way you are writing

  11. I am not going to be original this time, so all I am going to say that your blog rocks, sad that I don't have suck a writing skills