Author: Tana French
Publication Date: 5/17/09
Blurb (GR): 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.
In the Woods reminded me a lot of Gillian Flynn's novels (Sharp Objects and Dark Places). All these books are very dark mysteries/psychological thrillers and they all are as much about particular crimes the narrators investigate as they are about the narrators themselves, a disturbed bunch.
Rob Ryan, a detective on the Dublin Murder squad, and his partner Cassie Maddox are assigned to investigate a murder of a pre-teen girl. The thing is, the girl's body is found in the same woods where 20 years prior Rob's two best childhood friends disappeared. Rob undoubtedly witnessed their disappearance but has absolutely no recollection of what actually happened. Are these two crimes connected? Will investigating this new crime stir Rob's repressed memories? Is it a good idea at all for Rob to be involved in this case?
In the Woods is a very strong debut novel. Although a little too wordy in places, it is still a beautifully written, skillfully constructed mystery, with a multitude of red herrings. But my favorite part of this book was witnessing the effect of the investigation on the detectives working on it. It almost destroys all people involved. And our narrator, Rob, is a very special head case. His transformation is particularly striking.
I found the entire story very satisfying in terms of crime-solving. I was pleasantly surprised by how neatly French wrapped things up. Well, except that one huge piece of the puzzle that apparently infuriated a bunch of readers (not me though). That bit of unfinished business will have me coming back for more Tana French's novels.