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In The Woods – Book Review

inthewoods 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. – from In The Woods, page 4 –

Whenever a novel begins with the narrator telling the reader not to trust him, I know I am in for a twisty story where the truth may never be uncovered. In The Woods is one of those books. Murder detective Rob Ryan has a secret about his past. Twenty years ago, as a child, he walked into the Irish woods with his two closest friends. They have never been found and he has no memory of what happened on that dark day when searchers brought him home with his sneakers full of blood. So when a call comes in for Rob and his partner Cassie to respond to the murder of a twelve year old girl in those same woods, he feels a twinge of fear and trepidation.

Tara French’s debut thriller sets out to uncover the mystery of Katy Devlin’s murder, while exploring the psyche of lead detective Ryan. French intersperse’s memories from Rob’s past with the present day case, adeptly weaving one story into the other. The novel is fast paced and intriguing with writing that is not only engaging, but also character driven.

The flaw in this book, in my opinion, is the ending. Readers who like their mysteries solved will find In the Woods a bit frustrating. Although Katy’s murderer is ultimately uncovered, there are other plot lines left unfinished. As the story unfolds, Rob devolves from a likable character to one who left me largely unsatisfied.

Despite these drawbacks, I found French’s novel mostly compelling. My favorite character was Cassie – Rob’s competent yet vulnerable partner – and for this reason I am very much looking forward to reading the sequel to In The Woods. The Likeness, released last year, is narrated by Cassie six months after In The Woods closes.

Tana French is a solid writer who spins a suspenseful thriller. Readers who enjoy well crafted mysteries and don’t mind if all the ends are not neatly sewn up will love In The Woods.




  1. May 22, 2009    

    I really wanted to know what happened with the kids but nothing is revealed. That was my only problem with the book as well. I have yet to read The Likeness.

  2. May 22, 2009    

    I had the same reaction to you – wonderfully written but the ending wasn’t satisfying. I even gave it the same rating! I do plan on reading The Likeness.

  3. May 23, 2009    

    I have this one on my list; great review!

  4. May 23, 2009    

    I kind of liked that she had the guts to break the rules and not neatly package up everything.

  5. May 23, 2009    

    I enjoyed this book – but my husband wouldn’t like the ending, as he likes things neatly sewn up in books and films ;0)

  6. May 23, 2009    

    I do really want to read this book and I’m glad to hear that you enjoyed it, Wendy.

  7. May 23, 2009    

    I’ve had this one for a while and haven’t had a chance to get to it. I’m anxious to read it now.

  8. May 23, 2009    

    Mari: *nods* It irritated me to have the two mysteries linked through the entire book, only to be left hanging in the end.

    Carrie: Glad we agree!

    Diane: Thanks – hope you’ll like it!

    Suzi: I know a lot of readers who felt as you do – and I don’t always have to have the loose ends tied up. That said, in this case it bugged me!

    Lynda: My husband is the exact same way!

    Amy and Kathy: I’ll look forward to your reviews.

  9. May 24, 2009    

    Great review. I enjoyed this book. I think French is a solid writer, her characters are memorable and she took a risk with the ending. It was not clean and neat and left me “uncomfortable”! I found that a bit exciting. Have you read anything by Fred Vargas? I’d be interested in your response to her work.

  10. May 24, 2009    

    I had a very similar response – I wanted a bit more closure. The Likeness is ever better, in my opinion!

  11. May 27, 2009    

    Gavin: I agree about French’s writing – she is solid and her characters are definitely memorable. I have not read anything by Fred Vargas (yet)…will have to add her to my burgeoning wish list *laughs*

    Tara: Good to hear about The Likeness – I am eager to read it.

  12. June 2, 2009    

    I didn’t mind the ending as much as others in my book group. However, you are going to love The Likeness!!!

  13. June 3, 2009    

    I’m really looking forward to The Likeness, Les – loved your review of it!

  14. Marlene Marlene
    November 16, 2009    

    This book left me feeling angry and frustrated at the lack of a solution to the mystery. I would not recommend it to anyone, in fact I through the book away in disgust. I feel the author opted out st the end and spoiled what could have been, a good book

  15. November 20, 2009    

    Marlene: I think many people share your view of the lack of a resolution for the mystery…I was annoyed by that as well. I was torn on my rating of the book – on the one hand I think French is a terrific writer…on the other hand, the ending made me frustrated!

  16. Laura Laura
    March 28, 2010    

    I was more interested in what happened to the 3 children from years ago, than I was about who killed Katy Devlin. However, I totally loved this book. In the beginning, I trusted Rob, but by the end of the book, I was second guessing everything. Loved this book!!!

  17. April 2, 2010    

    Laura: I agree – the past mystery was the one I wanted solved. Sounds like you enjoyed the book more than I did, but I will be the first to admit, I don’t like loose ends!!!

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