ambern’s CBR III Review #16: In the Woods by Tana French

After reading a few reviews for this book, I figured that it was just the type for me.  Detective stories, Ireland, moodiness, what could go wrong?  When I picked it up from the library though, the librarian shook her head and warned me about a possible disappointment.  She said that she was with it until the end, and after finishing the book I too was left feeling just as disappointed.

In the Woods starts in 1984 Knocknaree, Ireland, a suburb outside of Dublin.  Three best friends, Adam, Peter, and Jamie, go off to play a summer afternoon and two are never seen again.  The third kid is found later clutching to a tree and soaked in someone else’s blood.  That kid, Adam Robert Ryan, grows up to be a murder detective in Dublin.  Ryan was never able to remember what happened to him and his friends, and has tried to distance himself from those events as much as possible.  One day though he and his partner Cassie Maddox are called to Knocknaree to investigate the murder of 12 year old Katy Devlin who is found by the woods that Ryan and his friends disappeared into.  There are a few similarities between the two cases so Ryan and Maddox investigate both.

This book is well written, I was instantly hooked and had a hard time putting it down.  The characters are great and a lot more realistic then you get with most detective stories.  We are taken through Ryan’s relationship with Maddox and his phycological breakdown, both of which felt genuine.  I really was completely engrossed until the end, when I was left feeling like I did after the Lost finale: That’s it?

Spoilers from here to the end

For those of you who have read the book could you please answer some questions for me?  First, I’m fine that we don’t know what happened to Jamie and Peter, but why was Jamie’s hair clip found by Katy’s body if they weren’t connected?  And why did Cassie and Rob’s relationship dissolve so easily?  They were shown to be incredibly close, I just don’t believe that what happened between them would be the end of their relationship.  It seemed like French just wanted to get rid of Ryan’s character so she could focus on Cassie for her next book.


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3 responses to “ambern’s CBR III Review #16: In the Woods by Tana French

  1. Definite Spoilers

    I can’t really speak to the hair clip thing (was it actually hers or did it just resemble it? I’ve read about 15 books since then), but I think I can answer the second question. Adam is screwed up. Like severely, dysfunctionally screwed up. After that incident he didn’t let anyone get close to him and you get little glimpses of his neuroses with how he totally fawns over the older sister, Rosalind, ignoring some very bold red flags, and the implication that he hit it and quit it with his roommate, whom he is now very nasty to. He tells us in the first few pages that he lies and later says “In ways too dark and crucial to be called metaphorical, I never left that wood”. Basically, he ruins the good things in his life, and Cassie was no exception. He’s actually a rather unreliable and ugly protagonist, and while his actions are screwed up, I think it’s pretty consistent with the little hints French drops throughout the novel.

    • anpeter

      Your right, he was definitely unreliable and pretty much an idiot, but I still feel like Cassie should have known him better and would understand the way he acts after sex. She seemed to know him better than anyone and it just didn’t seem right to me that that was it between them. But he does lie, so maybe she isn’t at all what he showed her as. Or maybe I’m just thinking about this too much, I just really thought that I would like this book and I didn’t. I hate that kind of disappointment.

      • Even Stevens

        What was she really supposed to do though? She kept trying to talk to him and he blew her off completely. I imagine if I had just crossed that line with my best friend I’d have a myriad of emotions, but I wouldn’t expect him to act like that. I expect a certain amount of pride and hurt feelings went into how she reacted as well.

        I definitely understand that feeling of disappointment in not liking something everyone else raves about. I HATE the Girl With a Dragon Tattoo, which everyone else seems to love, trust me I feel your pain. Also, her next book, The Likeness is even more frustrating in its characterization of Cassie, so you may want to skip that.

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