Pamela's Reviews > In the Woods

In the Woods by Tana French
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Jul 12, 2010

did not like it
bookshelves: angst, bizarre, clunky, confusing, disappointing, mystery, pointless, overrated, dnf
Read from December 27 to 28, 2011

** spoiler alert ** Right now, I am mad at two people:
1) The author, for writing half of a brilliant book (that would be the first half) and then spontaneously losing it
2) Myself, for wasting time getting into a story that doesn't go anywhere.

I do not understand the absolutely rapturous gushings about French's "prose." It's, um, well ... I can't describe it. It's just ... writing. I didn't feel ... anything about it at all. So there's that.

At first, I thought the premise was interesting: detective gets on a murder case that resembles one that he himself survived as a twelve-year-old. Alas, he (very conveniently) lost all of his memory from that time, and doesn't remember what happened to himself and his two best friends in the woods (see what I did there?). He's partnered up with a character I really liked, Cassie Maddox, who's smart and spunky and drives a clunky old scooter. She and her partner, Adam (narrator), get along like brother and sister, and their interactions in the first half made me smile.

However, at about p. 246, I came to a terrible realization: the whole murder story is a MacGuffin. A big, stinking, horrible MacGuffin. I skipped ahead to the end and found out that we never find out what happened to the narrator, and his life just falls apart because he treats Cassie like *insert your favorite word for poop here* because he's an egotistical jerk and a really bad detective who makes his partner do all the dirty work. Skipping ahead some more, when I saw who the bad person was, I just sort of moaned. Really? Evidently we, the readers, were supposed to be fooled as the narrator was fooled. It's just ... ta-da! Suckers! Plus, no one gets the comeuppance they deserve, I think.

Here's the thing: Hitchcock could get away with MacGuffins because of his atmosphere, his characters, and his general directorial brilliance. I just felt really angry that I had invested time in these people and in this story that turned out not to be real.

ETA: I was reading the reviews on Amazon (which I don't think are as balanced as they are on Goodreads, but that's neither here nor there) and I came across this little gem in a review passionately defending this book against the Neanderthals who just don't get it: "It is way too literary, layered, full of allusion, and linguistically lush." Oh-ho. Somebody likes his alliteration. I'm sorry, honey, that doesn't change my mind about In the Woods.
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