James Carmichael's Reviews > In the Woods

In the Woods by Tana French
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's review
Jan 17, 2012

it was ok
bookshelves: mystery
Read in January, 2012

I really really wish I were giving this 4 stars; perhaps even 5. Up until the last 1/3, I was really so impressed and enjoying it. What happens then (no spoiler) is basically a plot movement that is telegraphic and obvious, and a character response that is exaggerated to the point of flimsiness, undercutting much of what went before. Our narrator, at the very end, chastens the reader not to judge too harshly because we too were fooled -- the thing is we _really really_ weren't, to such an extent that I'm still considering whether French is playing a subtle double-game and the whole point of the novel is it's all b.s. and the narrator is psychotically unreliable; the only problem is that undercuts the rest of the book.

All of which is a huge shame, because there is a lot in this that is terrific. This mytho-poetic idea of "in the woods" as a locus of possibly fantastical violence, that is seamlessly interwoven with the very real violence that precipitates the investigation. The writing itself, which is lyrical almost to the point of being floral but not quite, and is frequently frequently elegant and so well-drawn and skillful. And a plot that, but for that one major glaring problem, is otherwise tight and really well conceived. It's possible the whole thing was overlong as well, though that seems a much more minor concern.

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