Emily May's Reviews > In the Woods

In the Woods by Tana French
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Jun 23, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: mystery-thriller-horror, 2012, favourites
Recommended to Emily May by: Tatiana, Catie, Megan
Read from June 23 to 28, 2012

Though the isbn is the same as the one pictured, my edition of this book has a much creepier cover and tagline:



Needless to say, I was completely expecting something a bit dark and twisted, a creepy psychological murder mystery with an outcome I never would have seen coming. And I got that. But I never expected this book to leave me feeling so... sad. And you know why? Because I cared. Ms French carefully builds up a complex personality for each of her characters, complete with a past, a sense of humour and some serious issues to go with it all, and you can't help but care what happens to the detectives even more than you care what happens with the case.

Having now read all her other works, I can confirm she isn't just a one trick pony. I also feel more forgiving of this book's ending, which I know bothered many other readers. In hindsight, frustrating as it is, I find it oddly perfect.

In The Woods is a deeply psychological read that explores the nature of psychopaths and memory - or lack of. The story is narrated by Rob Ryan, a detective on the Dublin murder squad, who is sent back to his home town in hopes of unravelling the case of a local child murder. A young girl found dead in the very same woods in which Detective Ryan played as a child. But Rob Ryan has a secret. Years ago two of his friends disappeared whilst playing in those woods and whilst he was with them and a witness to whatever happened, he retains no memory of the events. His friends were never found. The question is: will this new case bring back old memories? Is there some piece of evidence that's waited twenty years to be found in those woods?

A case like the one Rob and his partner - Cassie - face would leave a very personal mark on anybody, you cannot investigate the murder and sexual assault of a child and keep it just business as usual. As the investigation progresses and leads the pair in a number of directions only to meet with dead end after dead end, it begins to take its toll on the two detectives, they come out of it very different people from those we knew at the beginning. It seemed a very realistic and rather sad progression.

I'm not saying that every wordy paragraph in this beautifully-written novel was needed, but I personally didn't want them to be taken out. I think the main reason I enjoyed this novel so much was because it is about far more than a murder mystery; it's about all the people involved and how they are affected. And I was honestly on the verge of tears after reading the ending and then reading friends' reviews of the second book in this series and discovering that we never get to hear more from Rob.

There's a touch of love in this book, just a touch, not enough to be called romance. No descriptive sex. No sweet-nothings. Nothing like that. And yet, it still fucking broke my heart.

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Comments (showing 1-50 of 53) (53 new)


message 1: by Kat (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kat Looking forward to hearing what you think!


message 2: by Ellie (new) - added it

Ellie Added it myself to my to-read list in the last couple of days. Have not yet started on it, though I'm hoping not to be disappointed as the reviews seem a bit too mixed for my taste.


Catie Oh god, I was so broken up when I read this the first time too. It's funny how different my feelings were the second time I read it (after reading Cassie's book).

I really hope she revisits Rob someday. I think he has more story to tell.

Great review Emily!


Emily May Thanks Catie. And I know! I had to go check the GR descriptions for the other two books as well just to be sure she wasn't bringing him back... poor Rob :(


Kimberly Russell Really, really wonderful review!


Emily May Thanks Kimberly! :)


message 7: by Kat (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kat Great review, Emily. And I agree, the touch of love is heartbreaking. Cassie's book is also a great read.


Reynje This sounds amazing - great review Emily. I think I need to read this.


Megan Glad you enjoyed it!!! :) I'm not a fan of murder books because they always seem to glorify the perpetrator. But I love that Tana French focuses on the victims and the investigators. Can't wait to see what you think of the rest of the books in this series.

Like you I found this one more than a little heartbreaking and can't wait to hear the rest of Rob's story. I mean, you know the story has to be there! It's just a matter of French getting around to writing it.


Emily May Thanks everyone and sorry for the late reply - I've been away over the weekend.

Megan, I haven't read a murder mystery in a long time but this seems to have given me a real taste for them, I just ordered the next 2 from Amazon :)
And surely French can't leave a character story hanging like that? I really hope not...


message 11: by Anthony (new) - added it

Anthony Chavez I've heard so much about this, can't wait to read it. Great review.


Emily May Thanks Anthony!


Emily May No, I agree completely, we just need some closure when it comes to Rob. Even if he doesn't get another book, I really hope she revisits him through another perspective and we get the reassurance that we're looking for. By the way, her other books are just as good :)


message 14: by Lisa (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lisa Thank you for writing this review, Emily. It's because of your review that I became aware of this book and had the pleasure of reading it. Needless to say, any review that gets me interested in a book that I end up really liking is a fantastic review. :)


Emily May Thank you so much for saying that, Lisa! It makes me really happy to know my reviews have led people towards new favourites, I hope you enjoy the rest of the series just as much :)


message 16: by [deleted user] (new)

Gbahh just finished and am so sad


message 17: by Tandie (new) - added it

Tandie Agreed, your cover is creepier.


message 18: by charlie mcmillan (new)

charlie mcmillan nce reveiw


message 19: by TL (new) - rated it 4 stars

TL Glad you enjoyed it hun, great review and I do like your cover better:)


Emily May Thank you both :)


message 21: by Kristy (new) - added it

Kristy Sounds like I need to read this!


Debbie "DJ" Wow, love your review! I just started another book, but may have to drop it and read this. Thank you!


message 23: by Stephanie (new) - added it

Stephanie Fowler I have been on the fence with this book. But I may revisit my decision on wheather to read it or not.


Emily May Stephanie wrote: "I have been on the fence with this book. But I may revisit my decision on wheather to read it or not."

If you like any kind of psychological mystery/thrillers, then I'd say go for it!


message 25: by Pisey (new) - added it

Pisey great review as always Emily! I'm glad you give this book a big 5 stars because i've been on a haunt to find good psychological mystery/thrillers and now i find this but never heard of it before. so big thanks for you :)


message 26: by Xinyi (new) - added it

Xinyi Whenever I read reviews and it so happens that you did review the book, I get kinda cheered(?). excuse the English because I'm on mobile but hey your reviews always make the book seem really interesting -- I might read this book someday!


Mary Kate Totally agree about this book breaking my heart. Did you read The Likeness though? That one broke my heart even more, if that's possible (...off to find your review of The Likeness...)


Emily May Mary Kate wrote: "Totally agree about this book breaking my heart. Did you read The Likeness though? That one broke my heart even more, if that's possible (...off to find your review of The Likeness...)"

I agree! I love all of French's books. They are mysteries, but also so much more than that :)


Elizabeth Yes! The ending is perfect! Agreed!


message 30: by Melissa (new) - added it

Melissa Hernandez Hi , Emily. I was interested in reading Broken Harbor but realized it was listed as #4. Do I have to read this book plus the others ? Do they all tie together ?


Emily May Melissa wrote: "Hi , Emily. I was interested in reading Broken Harbor but realized it was listed as #4. Do I have to read this book plus the others ? Do they all tie together ?"

Hi Melissa. You don't have to because the stories all stand on their own. However, I do recommend reading them all in order if you can. They are not an interlinked series but certain characters from earlier books appear in later books and I think our perception of them changes the way we view the story.


message 32: by Melissa (new) - added it

Melissa Hernandez Oh okay , awesome thanks :) I shall read in order .


Sarah Yes, yes, yes! All of thise. The characters and the wordiness of this book were what made me enjoy it. They made me care. They broke my heart too.

Your comment about the novel being about the people involved is exactly why this book connected with something in me, as opposed to most mysteries. I wanted to know the ending, but it was the emotional investment I had with the characters that kept me turning the pages.


message 34: by Bill (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bill Emily, it was your recent video of your favourite mystery/thrillers that finally got me to pull this off my to-read list.
What a terrific book, and it's funny that the thing that readers were miffed over is the exact thing that I loved about it. And the brilliant characters, of course. I will read the second book soon...


Emily May Bill wrote: "Emily, it was your recent video of your favourite mystery/thrillers that finally got me to pull this off my to-read list.
What a terrific book, and it's funny that the thing that readers were miffe..."


I'm so glad you liked it, Bill! I look forward to hearing what you think of the other books :)


message 36: by ashlinka (new) - added it

ashlinka hey Emily- do you need to read the books in order? I got a couple for Christmas, but her newer ones... Im not sure if i should go back and read this first??
-ashlinka


Emily May Ashlinka wrote: "hey Emily- do you need to read the books in order? I got a couple for Christmas, but her newer ones... Im not sure if i should go back and read this first??
-ashlinka"


Hi Ashlinka! You don't need to read them in order because each book has its own individual story that you can enjoy without reading the others. However, characters in earlier books do reappear later, so I do recommend reading them in order if possible. Just so you understand the dynamics better :)


Poonam Wow... I picked this up solely on your review and I was not disappointed. The end left me wanting more but this is still a great read.


message 39: by Angela (new) - added it

Angela DeSilva I found the entire series at the library and can't wait to get into it! Great job on your review by the way.


Joanna Young I could not agree more on your review. I actually picked this book up because I saw you gave it 5 stars and Im so happy I did. I just finished it and I loved every wordy detailed paragraph and yet I'm somehow still left feeling empty and sad. Sad because of the ending or sad because it ended? Not entirely sure. Glad I picked this one up and I can't wait to read the rest!!


Emily May Joanna wrote: "I could not agree more on your review. I actually picked this book up because I saw you gave it 5 stars and Im so happy I did. I just finished it and I loved every wordy detailed paragraph and yet ..."

So glad you liked it, Joanna! Keep on reading the series because I think they're all consistently good :)


message 42: by Abid (new) - rated it 5 stars

Abid Kapadi Got the exact same feelings.Did you figure out who killed Rob's friends? I'm on the sixth book now, how every book in the series is so good is a fucking mystery in itself.


message 43: by JEROME (new) - added it

JEROME SIJU THOMAS Emily may could plz talk me what kinds of books are really good for the beginner like me?


Robert Madden Great review. I particularly like your use of the F word in the last paragraph. It reminds me of the Godfather II "You broke my heart" scene. Heartfelt "real" emotion, devoid of any schmltzy nonsense. Kinda mirrors the tone of the novel you've just reviewed!


message 45: by Linda (new)

Linda Tracy Would this make a good book club read?


Emily May Linda wrote: "Would this make a good book club read?"

I'd say so. It's a little on the long side, though, so don't know if that will be an issue for some members.


Susan Bowman Great book but I too was left Herat broken- I was team rob and Cassie :(


message 48: by Dani (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dani I read this book because you gave it 5 stars...you were so right!


Christina Fantastic review! You are the reason I buckled down and started reading Tana French. I am so, so glad I did. Thanks so much for that.


Emily May Christina wrote: "Fantastic review! You are the reason I buckled down and started reading Tana French. I am so, so glad I did. Thanks so much for that."

Thank you, Christina! I'm glad you enjoyed it too!


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