In the Woods by Tana French (Viking Penguin, 2007), 429 pages
In a small outlying Dublin neighborhood, three children hop the stone fence into their favorite woods. But then they don’t come home for tea, and they don’t come when their mothers call. Much later, police find only one of the tweens, terrified and with a complete block as to what filled the missing hours. Years later, that found boy is a detective on the Murder Squad. He’s changed his name and left the past buried. But when he and partner Cassie Maddox investigate the murder of a 12-year-old girl in those same woods, well, things get interesting.
I’d heard so many good things about this, I knew I wanted — needed, even? — to read it. I’m glad I finally got around to picking it off the shelf. The writing is superbly beautiful and filled with nuggets like this will still being accessible and readable.
The characters are definitely flawed, just the way I like them. Even when they disappoint me.
Haunting is a good word for In the Woods. Not that it scared me, but that it stayed with me in a somewhat uncomfortable way. It’s interesting to read the blurbs on the back cover, some call it a “hard-boiled police procedural” and others label it “psychological suspense.” Of course these aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive, but it does kind of show, I think, the limits of labels.
I think I might finally understand all the people who say they love sad books. Well. I’m not saying I love sad books to the extent that I’m going to seek them out, but this book is sad, and I [still] love it.
I was spoiled, I knew before I got to the end that it wasn’t all wrapped up neatly. But I don’t think it would have bothered me like it did some people, even if I hadn’t known. I should have suspected, anyway. I’m OK with ambiguity. The sadness was harder for me than the lack of closure.
In the Woods won an Edgar Award for best first novel.
Rating: 4.5 stars
I look forward to reading more from French. I’ll probably start with the follow-up to this one, The Likeness
About the author
Tana French grew up in Ireland, Italy, the US and Malawi, and has lived in Dublin since 1990. She trained as a professional actress at Trinity College, Dublin, and has worked in theater, film and voiceover.
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