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)[SPOILER]
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.
[END OF SPOILER]
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 Books • Book Addiction • Book Chatter • Confessions of a Bibliophile • Farm Lane Books • Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin’? • In Search of Giants • Lesley’s Book Nook • Live and Let Di • My Random Acts of Reading • Presenting Lenore • Read Warbler • Rhapsody in Books Weblog • S. Krishna’s Books • You’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!