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 and stunning in its complexity, In the Woods is utterly convincing and surprising to the end.
In the Woods by Tana French
Publication Date: May 17, 2007 by Viking
I initially read In the Woods around the time it was first released because of the amount of attention it was given. While I recall enjoying the book, it got an average three star rating from me and I never felt invested enough to continue the series once the second book, The Likeness was released shortly after.
I decided to pick this back up after an easy 7 year lull because of how much attention I noticed Tana French’s novels were getting on social media. When The Trespasser became an option for my subscription to Book of the Month Club, it felt like the right time to give French a second chance.
Apparently, re-reading In the Woods was the right decision because I found I enjoyed the novel much more the second time around. While I still felt like the narrator, Detective Ryan, was a royal twit, I was able to see past his character’s major flaws and become much more involved in all the layers of the plot.
In the Woods is both a psychological novel and a perfect example of investigative storytelling done well. There are so many novels out there that deal with police work and crime investigations, but many of those same novels maintain a surface level involvement. What I enjoyed about French’s writing is that she tells the methodical details of what goes into a murder investigation from the detective’s point of view that doesn’t lose the reader’s interest, while also creating a psychological story line with complicated characters who have even more complicated backgrounds.
The book is as much about Ryan and Maddox’s relationship as it is about the murder they are trying to solve. The further hidden layer of Ryan’s childhood and not knowing what happened in the woods that day to his two missing friends adds to the development of Ryan’s character as well as the tension that never really dissipates as the novel progresses.
I was not Ryan’s biggest fan, but knowing that the second novel picks up with Maddox has me ecstatic to read the second novel in the series. From what I’ve seen of other people’s reviews, Tana French’s novels only get better so I have high hopes for the next five books I’ll be binge-reading this month!