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.