It’s no secret that I have an incredibly long TBR list. Thus, when I talk to my friends about books they enjoy, I have to take any time they say “oh gosh you HAVE you read this book/series/etc” very lightly. If I read every book that everyone told me I should, I would genuinely never read any book I own again. However, it’s harder to avoid reading something when your friend hands you a copy of the book and says “here, read this right now.”
(I love you, Victoria, and I appreciate you lending me the book. 😀 )
I’ve been getting interested in thrillers and whatnot, and so my good friend Victoria lent me the first book in a series by an author she’s enjoyed a great deal. Given my increasing interest in horror style stuff as well, IN THE WOODS appealed to my interests.
Detective Adam Ryan has been keeping a secret for most of his life, and hiding a terrible pain beneath a false name. Two of his closest friends vanished in a tragic event in the local woods and are presumed dead–and he was the only one to survive. Now as a detective, he’s faced with the last thing he could possibly ever want: a case that would bring him back to those woods, involving another dead child.
Ryan has an interesting narrative style–one that I enjoy a great deal, and have mentioned before in regards to my own work–and manages the two stories he’s telling well. Since no one aside from him and the audience (and later, his partner Cassie) knows who he actually is, he has to balance his telling of what’s actually happening and what little he remembers of the incident from his youth. He’s detached emotionally from most of his life, which is a clear coping mechanism, and it makes him a strange character to relate to. He’s distant, he’s abrupt and brash, and comes across as a bit of a jerk. Cassie works well with him, since she’s equally distanced from the world, though for slightly different reasons, but it makes the two of them together a strange pair to try and empathize with this.
I actually enjoyed (though I use the term “enjoyed” loosely) the secondary characters a bit more than the main people. French has a good handle on her characters, especially given that there’s truly no one in this story that’s truly whole, mentally. Most indicative of this is the passed girl’s sister, Rosalind. There is more going on with that girl than the next few kids over. Between her, the passed sister Katy, and the third traumatized sister Jessica, a psychoanalyst would have a field day. I can’t go too far into it without spoiling large chunks of the plot, but as the book progressed, I wanted more and more to drop Rosalind into the River Liffey and walk away. (And then send Adam after her for being dumb.)
The book ends on a slightly off-key note, to be honest. I wanted so much more from the different plot lines, and most of them just dropped off. It’s a very real feeling ending, in that not everything ends happily, not all the questions get answered, and not everything gets wrapped up in a bow by the end. I both appreciate this and am a little let down. While I understand that the “realism” of the ending probably strengthens it, it felt too much like everything was leading to a head…and then it never came. And while the ending sets up nicely for sequels, it doesn’t allow for the sequels to look anything like the original, thus taking all the chemistry I’ve grown to like in the characters and throwing it in the trash. Very disappointing.
What I will say is that French has an amazing way with words, which is what gets this book the rating it does. She can describe a scene better than most of the authors I’ve read. So even though much of what is happening might be unfortunate and/or disappointing, the writing never is. If I could write a fraction as well as Tana French, I’d be pleased.
Despite basically liking the book, I can’t say as I’m going to continue on with the Dublin Murder Squad. Book 2 follows Cassie and her story, and the end of this one has left me a little soured on her. Maybe I’ll come back later, but more likely I’ll be looking to find something French has written outside of this series. (Though I’ll miss the glorious memories of Dublin the book brought me. Ah, Trinity College.)
Rating: **** (Recommended)