In the Woods (Dublin Murder Squad, #1) In the Woods question


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Adam Ryan lies - My theory: What happened to Jamie and Peter?
Carolina Daza León Carolina (last edited Jul 29, 2017 07:49PM ) Jul 29, 2017 07:16PM
SPOILERS - THIS IS MY TAKE ON THE ENDING:


Hello,

I know I am late to the party because this book was published so long ago but I just finished it and now I NEED to discuss it with someone, especially the unfinished mystery of what happened with Jamie and Peter.

It seems like there are two main theories going around:

1) Adam Ryan killed his friends.
2) A supernatural being - probably the púka/pooka - killed them.

I think the "Adam killed his friends" is the right one, and that it is actually sustained by the supernatural beliefs of the second theory.

One of the recurring themes of the book is the fact that children are in a desperate search for magic. They know it probably doesn't exist but they hope so deeply that magic is real that they would even risk their safety to find it. Katy knows her sister can't be trusted but when she's promised a magical object, she forgets what she already knows about her sister's personality and meets this stranger in the middle of the night. It's her innocence that ends her life. In a similar fashion, when Cassie was a child, she followed a stranger into a shed, hoping the marbles he was going to show her were somehow magical.

I think we, the readers, are the children here. We want to believe that some supernatural being killed Jamie and Peter - or even better, that he took them to a magical kingdom because they were worthy. Adam Ryan wants to believe it for sure - as he feels that the monster rejected him and took his friends instead.

The novel mentions weird sounds in the wood (like birds) and at the end, Ryan sees an odd figure with antlers (although I don't know if it's in the woods or engraved in the object that looks like an arrowhead or a pendant.) I believe Ryan wants to see this because that's the romantic explanation and it hides the ugly truth his memory loss is hiding: That he killed his friends when he was just a boy.

ADAM KILLED HIS FRIENDS. Possible clues:

- Ryan says once that in the 80s nobody believed children could kill but now people know better. I don't remember the context - I think he was thinking about another case - but the idea is there: A child can kill.

- The detective that investigated Jamie and Peter's case believed Adam was the killer. (At least, this is suggested when Cassie doesn't want to talk to Ryan about the old detective's theories - I wish we could have been present in that conversation!)

- THERE WAS NOBODY WHO KNEW THE FOREST AS WELL AS ADAM, PETER AND JAMIE. Why is this line repeated in the story so many times? Is Tana French trying to tell us that Adam could find the best spot to hide the bodies and nobody would ever find them?

- ADAM LIES? One of the parts I was curious about was when Ryan visits his parents. Adam remembers that Peter was the kind one (the first one that was friendly to the bullied kid for the first time). Adam's mother, however, thinks it was Adam who showed this kindness. MAYBE - (which means this is just my theory) - Adam used to tell his mother stories of Peter but putting himself in the spot of the hero just because he was envious of Peter's charisma.

- How was his relationship with Jamie and Peter? He remembers it as something idyllic, but there's something Jamie and Peter had in common: They thought their parents didn't love them. Something like that, at an early age, could create strong bonds. Did Adam feel left out?

Extract from the book:
I climbed down into the room. "Go away!" Jamie shouted AT ME. "Leave me alone."
Peter was still on top of the wall. "Are you going to boarding school?" he demanded.
"She never said..." (That's Jamie's answer)

Notice how she was "rude" to Adam but answered when Peter asked her?

- Did Adam have a crush on Jamie? The kiss on the cheek seems to imply so but Jamie didn't seem to share those feelings. (There's a moment when Adam puts his arms around her and she shakes it off. Same scene than the previous extract - I know it could just mean she's upset but, still, it's interesting)

Also, the scene where Adam runs behind her two friends could simbolize how he feels left out - or maybe it just means he wants to follow them to wherever they're now but he can never reach them.

MY THEORY: Peter, Jamie and Adam decide to run away but Adam is having doubts because he doesn't want to worry his parents. Then, maybe Peter says that he doesn't need to go with them, that Peter and Jamie don't need him. Adam feels betrayed and he sees that Jamie likes Peter better than him so they fight and - not really intending to do it - he kills them. They probably were without shoes because they were by the river and Adam puts his bloody shoes on again to walk around the woods and look for a place to hide their bodies.

(As I write this, I feel dirty like - HE'S A BOY! HOW IS HE GOING TO HIDE TWO BODIES? But still, one of themes of the books is the end of innocence and how children are capable of horrible things. Rosalind, for example, is only 17).

- I also find interesting how similar Jamie and Cassie are. They're both cute tomboys, strong and stuborn. It's interesting how Ryan seems to feel attracted by the "girlie girls" like Rosalind and Heather (Or even Cassie when he thought she was a damsel in distress) but he develops strong friendships with females with a strong personality. My take here is that Cassie reminds him of Jamie - and he wants to be first in their lives but the moment he has sex with her, he stops caring about Cassie... Could this be related to his feelings for Jamie? Is Ryan, as an adult, still trying to be Peter so when Cassie "falls for his charms", he feels like Jamie is choosing Peter all over again? (I KNOW THERE'S A LOT OF SPECULATION HERE - But that's fun!)

- Lastly, the behavior of Adam's parents seems interesting. If I remember correctly, there was one time where Adam mentions that his mother was afraid the killer would go back for him... if that was true, then she would have never wanted him out of her sight and, still, she sends him to a boarding school. (Weird decision). MY TAKE: His parents think he killed his friends, or at least they have their doubts - But they feel bad just thinking about it and that's why when Adam visited them, they kept saying that "He was a good boy."

MAN, THIS IS A LONG POST. Thoughts?



Here is my thought upon waking up after reading it. When the kids jumped off - peter and jamie landed on a buck's antlers. When Rob landed and focused on his shoes - the antlers missed him but slashes his back. The blood poured into his shoes because they were above him. The theme of rain is also triggering for him and I think it's because their blood rained down. There was a mention of 3 baby deer running alongside them at some point. As a child, he would have thought the buck was a monster. The lack of bodies would make sense if, like he said, they were both still very lightweight. The buck would have migrated. Or run away with them - and leaving him behind. The shock would have been intense when he looked up. Enough to cause a kid to dissociate & be catatonic. At the end, the answer is facing him directly, when he is given that relic, and it's too much so instead of allowing himself to remember he gives it away. Rob is someone who doesn't want to face the truth/can't (which Tana French has written about and is evidenced by his behaviour). The theme along the way that French included about kids wanting to belive in "magic" and the theme of "magical items" would then make sense because Rob as a child explained away that the buck was a monster and the relic is a chance for him to see things as an adult but he can't.


Paul (last edited May 10, 2019 11:20AM ) May 10, 2019 10:14AM   1 vote
[Kudos to Ashley for the beginnings of this theory!]

I too feel like Adam killed Jaime and Peter, at least in a way. Look at the parallels with the modern case: Rob buys into Rosalind's deception hook, line, and sinker, just like Damien. Rob is not the psychopath, but he's extremely susceptible to one who is. Rob was large as a child, hmm, like Willy Little, the boy who is overly concerned with what his mummy thinks. The book also goes into great detail about the problems murderers have dealing with their crimes, at least sensitive ones who were manipulated into it. And Rob is clearly disturbed to the point of madness by the events, and cannot bear to remember them.

I haven't poked at this theory a lot, but my thought is the narrator, "Rob", is actually Willy Little. The psychopath who led him to kill is indeed Adam Ryan, but not the narrator of the book. That is poor Willy. Who stopped Willy's bullying? Adam. As part of his psychopath's plan for Willy, he needs to save him, to befriend him.

The real Adam Ryan well and truly disappeared, after convincing everyone he had a horrible memory loss, sold with a psychopath's skill. Meanwhile, with an unfortunate name and the horrors of boarding school, Willy Little changes his name, and who better than a similar name to his psychopath friend/tormentor.

O'Kelly promises to check fingerprints, but we never hear the results. Instead of them losing their jobs, as is repeatedly stated, Cassie is merely docked a week of vacation, and Rob assigned to tip desk. Sounds like they didn't match or were at least inconclusive. And no one, and I mean absolutely no one, ever recognizes "Rob" as Adam. Sure he's older and thinner now and has an accent, but there would be traces (my how you look like your mother) and his voice would be recognizable, especially over the phone. And with a last name of Ryan? But no, nothing. Adam would be remembered, but not poor Willy. Sure, Rob was afraid of being remembered, but not as Adam, but as Willy.

And where are Peter and Jaime? Still in the top room of the castle, their hiding place so secret that only they knew. Hidden from the ground, the staircase crumbled away, now with two skeletons silently keeping watch.


I just finished the novel and have been combing reviews to look for some fan theories. I really love your analysis, and there's only one piece that I think could potentially be a little different (not sure which scenario I want to believe!).

I can't help but imagine a scenario in which Peter and Jamie really do run away. Like you said, P&J want to run away but Adam is having doubts. They don't want to be caught and dragged back home so they concoct a plan to leave torn clothing/blood before disappearing. It could be planned that Rob was always the one left behind to cover for the other two, but I think more likely that Peter and Jamie concoct a secret plan to disappear because they don't trust Adam. Maybe they actually use Adam as a pawn in their plan and that's why he's locked his memories away.

What if ADAM is the bullied/unwanted kid? We know he's the fat kid (bit cliche but think about it). In his memories, Adam believes he was friends with Peter and Jamie. He thinks they were all best friends and had an idyllic connection. He even idolized Peter, re-imagining him as this amazing, nice person. That's part of why he becomes Rob--not because he can't live his life as Adam--because he wants to be a completely different person. Someone who actually belongs (doesn't he mention how he tries to dress the exact part of detective, to fit in perfectly?).

When reality hits him--that his two best friends didn't want him, that they left him behind, (or even worse, framed him for an attack/murder and disappeared) he can't handle it. He blocks the truth--the only thing that makes sense to him is that they were his very best friends and something took them away from him, not that they willingly left him behind.

That could be what the old detective tells Cassie--that if there were bodies, they'd have found the bodies by now. Maybe the original detective thinks the kids disappeared (and something could certainly have happened to them post-disappearance). He tells Cassie that basically Adam was a fragile kid sent off to boarding school because he couldn't keep himself together (and perhaps his parents were afraid he too would run away at some point when he realized his friends were never coming back). Cassie realizes she can't tell this to Adam because his sanity is hinging on the fact that he can't remember what happened to his friends---that they didn't want him. That maybe they never wanted him. Maybe they weren't even his friends.


Veronica (last edited Mar 01, 2019 09:24PM ) Mar 01, 2019 09:08PM   0 votes
I just finished it a few minutes ago and, while I suppose it's possible that Rob killed his friends, I don't really buy it. I know that young kids can kill but I have a very hard time believing that a 12 year old boy could kill two people and dispose of the bodies so well and so fast that no one would ever find them.

As for the argument that he warns readers at the start, and then reminds them of that at the end, that he lies...well, that IS part of being a detective. Undercover cops do it really well too. And, more generally, we as humans do it all the time, sometimes most especially to ourselves. Here's what he says in the last chapter:

"But before you decide to despise me too thoroughly, consider this: she fooled you, too. You had as good a chance as I did. I told you everything I saw, as I saw it at the time. And if that in itself was deceptive, remember, I told you that, too: I warned you, right from the beginning, that I lie."

The emphasis is mine. Rob is telling us that that he described everything as he saw it at the time. Not with the wisdom of hindsight but as it was happening. He saw Rosalind as he wanted to see her, as he wanted her to be because he saw himself in her tragedy. Likewise, he wanted/needed the bad guy to be the obvious, in your face option (the dad or Mark)- not the one you'd never ever suspect or ever see coming, i.e. the danger you don't even know is there. He was, in effect, deceiving himself by not allowing himself to see the reality of what was actually going on, despite all evidence to the contrary. Because, despite Rob saying that Rosalind fooled the readers too, she didn't fool me. She raised red flags with me, not upon meeting her but soon thereafter. And after she lost her cool and snapped at Jessica, calling her a stupid girl, I KNEW she wasn't what she seemed and that she was involved in her sister's death. But that very obvious slip of the mask went right by Rob not because he didn't notice it but because he chose not to ascribe any meaning to it because it would conflict with his created "truth" about her. He was lying to himself and,indirectly, to the reader.

Besides, Ron comes off looking more and more like an idiot especially in those last chapters. I came away thinking that maybe he should give up the police work because his detective instincts, in this case at least, were crap. And a true psychopath could never stomach coming off looking like a fool. They'll play the vulnerable victim - because that illlicits sympathy. They'll play the humble hero - because that illicits praise. And both will illicit admiration, towards the victim for surviving and towards the hero for being noble and good. It feeds their narcissism. No one admires an idiot.

Also, the author had this to say about Rob in an interview: "Rob is the kind of person who, whenever he comes close to taking some irrevocable leap, runs as fast as he can in the other direction. He’s so badly damaged that he can’t risk taking that leap, in case it smashes him into a million pieces. So when I started thinking about the end of In the Woods, I had three choices: turn my narrator into a totally different person in the last chapter, in order to force in a solution (cheap, artificial and cheesy); do a deus ex machina and have someone else pop up with the solution (cheap, artificial and cheesy); or stay true to the character and just write the best book I could, even if it didn’t exactly fit the genre conventions."

That doesn't sound like a psychopath at all. Psychopaths don't have a conscience, hence there would be no running away from anything, no need to shield himself from bad memories via selective amnesia, no danger of being "smashed into a million pieces" by any experience.


Great analysis Carolina! I also thought that Rob was a psychopath. His first statement that he was a liar was the foreshadowing clue. His behavior throughout the book reinforces this trait. He was the last person to see Peter and Jamie alive, and he was physically large. I believe that his motive was pain and anger at being the third wheel in the relationship among the friends, and that he was afraid they would leave him behind.


I totally agree with you that Adam Ryan is the killer. He starts the book out by saying he’s an unreliable narrator, so we as readers aren’t supposed to feel like we can trust him. However I think you forgot one big evidence within the last few pages of the novel to back up your opinion. A worker on the dig gives Adam Ryan an arrowhead, or pendant, that they had just found which was black with age and was noted as sharp. It was also said that when he gave the pendant back to the worker so that he could give to his grandson, a child, that Adam was left with red stains on his hands. In my mind the book wasn’t left unsolved but was left for the readers to be detectives to solve their own case. I think the red marks left on Adam’s hands were symbolizing blood stained hands, hinting he’ll never truely be able to escape that he is the true murderer of his friends. I also question whether the item found on the dig was the murder weapon because being called a pendant, another term similar to a locket, mimics Rosalind’s murder scheme intents, hinting at the similarities between them. Plus, Adam tells the worker to give the pendant to his grandson to play with, again just playing with the notion that children are capable of being killers. Sorry I just finished this book and am still flustered with it.


Liz (last edited Feb 25, 2019 07:04AM ) Feb 25, 2019 05:34AM   0 votes
The idea that a 12 year old could have successfully hidden two bodies in a relatively short period of time is as unlikely as the pooka. The pooka mentions come from four different sources, not once from Adam, and most with other witnesses in the room. So we aren't simply relying on his recounting of the conversation. Unless he is also lying to the reader about who was present in the room and what was said. He has warned us he may do that. But then it makes if very hard to believe anything we read.

We know that Cassie appears smart, has read the case file about Adam and has experienced psychopaths before. I think if Adam was either a child killer or a psychopath she might have raised a flag.
I think if Adam is the killer it's not actually credible with the facts given. Although there are some really weird notes, what parent would send their child away after an event like that! Also Rosalind's father said he would send his daughter away to protect her, keeping Rosalind at home as long as is possible. Does Adam have a brother that he has also forgotten about?

Also the things the digger finds at the end, with symbol of a man with horns on it? That sounds like a pooka to me.


I just read it also and agree with you. His difficulties with
relationships would support that theory also (that he did it).


When Adam decided Rosalind made a fool of him, he said "hey I also fooled you, right? " to the readers.


So... Here is my somewhat gruesome take. Sure, Adam/ Ryan is a psychopath. Lots of evidence for that. I wonder if the event that triggered this was the death of his friends. Whether he killed them or they died accidentally, he definitely felt responsible. So much so that he imagines a creature, gets rid of the bodies, and locks the event in his brain. Here is the creepy bit. There wasnsouch reference to food. He used to be fat. He didn't eat for weeks after the woods. He had trouble eating at boarding school. He goes long periods without food now. At one point , when talking about a certain suspect he says, " and what about the bodies? It's not like they were eaten!"
Maybe, in his terror and remorse over the deaths, he was so desperate to hide the bodies that he ate them. Maybe he became the monster. Maybe he consumed the thing he loved most.

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Shruthi First of all Ew.
Butif he was a psychopath - wouldn't Cassie have identified him immediately since she is a psychology student and she herself sa
...more
Oct 15, 2018 07:56PM

Growing up in the late 80's, there was plenty of urban legend and snatch-and-grab paranoia with kids that could easily be more plausible than Rob Ryan killing his friends (discussed in other threads for this book).

#BringBackRobRyan
#RobAndCassieTrueDetective
#OperationFindPeterAndJamie


I was so annoyed that this mystery hadn't concluded that I assumed she continued it into other books. When I found out that wasn't the case, I googled around, and your conclusion here makes it *so much more satisfying.* (A little embarrassed that I read so shallowly; I'm an English teacher! lol)

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Pam Carmichael Well heck they will not let me post sorry
Jul 05, 2018 10:31AM

I was a big proponent of the puka theory, because I just didn’t see where he would have hidden the bodies, and I think there were just too many references to the supernatural, and not just from Rob’s point of view (Jonathan Devlin and his friends also heard it laughing in the woods) ... but of all the “Rob did it” theories I’ve read, this one is the most convincing. Must think on it more...


Wow, you may be a genius, lol. I read the book and liked it well enough but it never occurred to me that Adam could be the killer. A liar, definitely. You've painted the situation in a way that is very mind boggling. If what you say is true, Tana French is way more creative than I originally thought. Don't get me wrong, I liked the book but i was very frustrated by the open-ending. So much so that I figuratively hurled the book across the room (I read it on my phone soooo not really). Very interesting take on things! I wish I could contribute more to the discussion but it's been 6+ months since I read the book so I can't remember so much of the details. Strangely enough, I liked Rosalind, she was so wickedly evil lol


SO LATE to this, but my thoughts: I would only find this to make sense if he is such an unreliable narrator that (1) he is a psychopath, (2) Cassie didn't "pick it up" because HE was actually the psychopath in her history, and (3) all his feelingsy ramblings are just to make us think he has non-psychopath feelings. This seems like a stretch to me, but I guess is possible. I think he would have to be a psychopath because I know horrible horrible things happen in the world but I feel like it would take quite a dance of explanation for how a twelve year old was motivated to murder their friends, without any signs at school/home that would have lead him to be a suspect. I think accidentally killing his friends or letting them die seems more likely. Like maybe something happened that made him *feel* responsible for their deaths, sure this could be accidental murder through a fight, but I think it may be more likely that he chickened out or was too slow to help them get away from something/someone (his inability to act and his slowness are discussed in the book - also tangent, because he is slower I think at least one would get away if he tried to kill them).


I just finished the book...page 409 suddenly the writer addresses the audience from Adam Ryan's perspective and states "I warned you, right from the beginning that I lie." it took me weeks to read this book so at the time I was confused but it makes much more sense reading your comments that he omitted the memories


Now I feel the need to re-read the book because I've read it last year.
You definitely make great points! I remember having a bad feeling about Ryan because something was definitely off with him and I couldn't really believe everything he did or said. I think that it's definitely hinted that he could be the killer. But I am glad it has an open ending because - well in life we don't always get a closure, right? And this unsolved mystery somehow made the book more likable or just more relatable for lack of another word (I would lie if I would say that I can think of another word at least in my native language).


Well ladies I just got done with it and wow Carolina you hit the nail on the head. This is just how I felt to the tee. I also feel she could have cut a hundred pages out of it because repeating this so many times was just boring to me. I do think Ryan did it and really didn't have a whole hell lot of feelings about it, very weird book!!!


I’m super late to the party myself. Here’s what I’m thinking. What if there really was some strange laughing animal in the woods in 1984? Let’s say it’s some weird nocturnal beast of a thing. Jamie, Peter and Rob avoided its lair, but it lived around the ruins where the kids played. They studied it all summer, maybe several summers. They realized that this thing was carnivorous, but also that it stored its food hanging upside down with the blood drained out. I definitely think Rob killed Peter and Jamie, for all of the very great reasons stated above, but not sure if it was accidental or on purpose. And then he fed them to the beast thing. He hung them and drained them (blood in his shoes), and barely escaped (4 scratches on his back). I think that what happened to the detectives and Rosalind happened to the 1984 detectives and Rob. They recreated the scene in the woods, Rob confesses or shows them; it is inadmissible because of some technicality. What I doesn’t make sense to me is if Cassie was suspicious of Rob after talking to the detective, I do not think she would have slept with him. Several times, as the book implies.

I still am not sure whether or not I like this book. If there is closure; if I am sure that Rob killed his friends, then I like it. Hence the internet searches and theories. I don’t know that I would read another Tana French book. I’m still ruminating.


I figured that the reason Rob sounded like he hesitant at first to divulge to the reader that he was a big kid at age 12 was that his size would incriminate him - i.e. he was tall and strong enough to be physically capable of killing the other two kids. So that would support your theory! He doesn't seem like psychopath though, so the motive would still be a puzzle ...


As far as how Rob would have gotten rid of the bodies so quickly, didn’t he say at one point that the killer (I think this was regarding Katy’s case) would have been smarter to dump her body in the river? I’m almost certain he said that, but I haven’t found it mentioned around here (possibly haven’t no looked enough). Anyway, my favorite theory is that he killed his friends and disposed of their bodies in the river. In reality I think it’s intentionally open ended and there is no correct answer, but I feel better telling myself this jerk of a protagonist is also a psychopathic murderer.


I think it will be her final book in the detective series, bringing it all full circle.


From the slashes on the back of Adam's shirt, and the eerie laughter in the woods, and Adam/Rob's hallucinations of an animal running past, my guess is that Peter & Jamie were killed by a hyena.


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