Nan's Reviews > In the Woods

In the Woods by Tana French
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's review
Jul 07, 2008

really liked it
bookshelves: mystery, suspense, favorites
Read from June 01 to 06, 2010 , read count: 2

"I chase truth. And I lie," Detective Ryan tells readers in the first pages of the novel. Truth and individual flaws will come to overwhelm this book.

Twenty years ago, three children spent the day playing together in the woods near their suburban neighborhood of Knocknaree. When Peter didn't come home for tea, his family was alarmed, and by nightfall, the neighborhood was mobilized in a search for the children. Peter and the girl, Jamie, were never found.

But Adam Robert Ryan was. He was alive, and his shoes were soaked in blood. Now known as Rob, he's an detective on Dublin's elite (and fictional) Murder Squad. (Side note: wouldn't homicide have been a better name?) And a child has been found murdered in Knocknaree.

Only three people know Rob's true name and his history: his parents, and his partner, Cassie Maddox. Unaware of Rob's connection to the town, Rob and Cassie are assigned to the child's murder, and the case is given the name Operation Vestal. As the days and weeks crawl along, the investigation gradually goes cold and Ryan loses control.

I read this book slowly, because it needs to be given that sort of attention. French is a fine writer, and the story she tells through Ryan is fascinating. As readers, we ride along in his head as he narrates the story, telling us only what he saw and perceived. Ryan is a flawed narrator, and as readers, we are so thoroughly entrenched in his world-view that when the case (and Ryan) begin to fall apart, it seems entirely reasonable that they should do so.

The first time I read this book, I didn't like it that much. However, French was such a good writer that I slowly mulled over the action and the characters, and in retrospect, I grew to love it. My reread has confirmed my second opinion: this is a truly wonderful book. It's not a fun read, but it is engrossing, and extremely well done.
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