Book Review: In the Woods


“What I am telling you, before you begin my story, is this – two things: I crave truth. And I lie.”

I am a sucker for mysteries and thrillers. Right after I finish reading one that is at least remotely ‘good’, I can’t stop gushing at the plot, the twists and turns, and the what-the-heck-did-I-just-read? moments. I think that is why the majority of thrillers/mysteries that I read get five-star reviews. Sometimes I will go back, after I’ve calmed down, and think about my rating… was it really THAT good? But unless I re-read a book, I won’t change the rating, and that is that.

So, In the Woods was a book that I could not put down. I was hooked by the plot, the imagery, the character-depth, and the insanely good writing. Honestly, Tana French is brilliant with words, and it was a pleasure to read the way in which she unfolded her novel. The protagonist of the story is Rob Ryan, although I am not so sure I would call him a PROtagonist. Anyhow, as a young child, Ryan spends day after day in the Knocknaree wood with his two best friends, Peter and Jamie. Their relatively carefree childhood days evoked a sense of nostalgia, and I could relate to Ryan in his excitement over days in the sun that felt like they would never end.

One day, Peter and Jamie go missing, and the cops find Ryan clinging to a tree, scared out of his mind, his shoes filled with blood. In typical fashion, Ryan can’t remember a thing, and this event, obviously, changes his entire life.

Fast forward, and Ryan is an adult, a detective in the Dublin Murder squad, a very prestigious appointment. Ryan and his partner, Cassie Maddox, are assigned to a murder case that coincidentally occurred in the Knocknaree wood, and involves the murder of 12-year old Katy Devlin. Ryan is taken aback by the many similarities this case has to his own life-changing event, something he still does not have answers to after all of these years.

Two murder mysteries seemingly connected? Gripping, to say the least. So, why is this not a five-star review? Man, I really despised the ending. I won’t put any spoilers, but I feel like I raced through the last 200 pages to get to a very dissatisfying ending. I may look back a few months from now and find this end fitting, but right now, I’m just annoyed.

In addition, this was just a sad, sad book. A story you don’t think will be particularly sad apart from the obvious (a child is murdered), but more a sad that sneaks up on you. Catches you when you least expect and casts a melancholy shadow over everything else you just read.

That being said, I whole-hardheartedly recommend this novel. It is everything you could want from a mystery, and reading writing this well-done makes the ending worth the read. Well, four-stars worth the read :).

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