Title: In The Woods
Author: Tana French
Publication date: 20 November, 2007
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Length: 596 pages
Genre: Mystery / Thriller
Age group: Adult
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Buy it: Amazon US | Amazon UK | The Book Depository
You’re twelve years old. It’s the summer holiday. You’re playing in the woods with your two best friends. Something happens. Something terrible. And the other two are never seen again.
Twenty years on, Rob Ryan – the child who came back – is a detective in the Dublin police force. He’s changed his name. No one knows about his past. Even he has no memory of what happened that day. Then a little girl’s body is found at the site of the old tragedy and Rob is drawn back into the mystery. For him and his DI partner, Cassie, every lead comes with its own sinister undercurrents. The victim’s apparently normal family is hiding layers of secrets. Rob’s own private enquiries are taking a toll on his mind. And every trail leads inexorably back… into the woods.
WOW. It’s not often a book leaves me completely and utterly speechless but In The Woods by Irish novelist Tana French has just done that. Before I start, I must say a massive thank you to Marian Keyes for the recommendation and for brining Tana French’s work to my attention, and to Hodder & Stoughton for sending me a copy of this book – it was a truly brilliant read. I’ve loved crime fiction for quite a long time and I’ve read a tremendous amount of mysteries in the past but Tana French’s writing is nothing like I’ve ever come across before.
At the risk of sounding sloppy and terribly cliché, reading In The Woods was like eating my favourite chocolate. You know, your favourite chocolate you always save for last, the one you eat with your eyes closed and at a snail’s pace in order to savour every moment. I felt the same way about this book. I was hooked on page 1 and didn’t want to put it down – but at the same time, I wanted to take my time and draw it out as long as I could, enjoying every minute of it. I didn’t want it to end.
Rob Ryan is a brilliant narrator and protagonist and one of my favourite things about this book was his friendship with his partner, Cassie Maddox. I loved the fact that Cassie wasn’t a “girly girl”. She’s been through a lot and being on the Murder squad mustn’t have been easy for her but still, she was one of the toughest characters. The two of them were constantly bickering but they’ve always had each other’s back and they’ve always been there for each other when it really mattered.
I have to say, however, that In The Woods is not warm, upbeat story. It’s dark, it’s full of secrets, it has quite a haunting atmosphere and it doesn’t have a happy ending. Even though Rob Ryan’s past plays an important part in the book, there are things that remain unsolved and his past is never fully revealed – and it might not work for everyone. To be honest, I was a tiny bit disappointed by this at first, just like many other people. Rob comes so close to remembering what happened that night in the woods but then, all of a sudden it’s taken away and we’re left in the dark again. But you know what? I loved it all the same. The novel’s atmosphere and French’s eloquent writing style makes up for it.
If you’re looking for a book that will make you stay up till odd hours of the morning four days in a row, clutching your book in a white-knuckled grip and not wanting to let go, then In The Woods was definitely made for you. It’s a brilliantly written debut novel with endless numbers of twists and turns and I can’t recommend it enough. Tana French has definitely become one of my favourite authors and I’m looking forward to reading her next book, The Likeness.
“This is my job and you don’t go into it – or, if you do, you don’t last – without some natural affinity for its priorities and demands. What I am telling you, before you begin my story, is this – two things: I crave truth. And I lie. “