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In the Woods by Tana French
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In the Woods (original 2007; edition 2008)

by Tana French

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4,894343942 (3.77)403
Member:dastevens
Title:In the Woods
Authors:Tana French
Info:Penguin (Non-Classics) (2008), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 464 pages
Collections:Your library
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Tags:mystery, suspense/thriller, author-Ireland, unread

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In the Woods by Tana French (2007)

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Showing 1-5 of 329 (next | show all)
Tara French's first novel about the (imaginary) Dublin Murder Squad.

In 1984, two boys and a tomboy girl, fast friends, went to play in the woods near a pristine Dublin suburb. One of the boys and the girl disappeared. The other boy was found clinging to a tree with blood in his shoes, his T-shirt torn in the back very neatly in three rips, and his memory of what happened gone. This boy, Adam Robert Ryan, was sent to school in England and came back to Ireland with a posh accent and a dropped first name. He becomes a policeman, then a homicide detective, forming a close but asexual relationship with his spunky (of course) female partner Cassie Maddox.

And, then, one day, a little girl is found murdered in the same woods and Ryan and Maddox are assigned to it. Of course Ryan should recuse himself from it but he doesn't. He hopes that solving this case he can also solve his case.

French was more interested in writing a literary novel that contained a mystery than writing a murder mystery. She gives a lot more detail about the detective's life and thoughts than I wanted to know. I have stopped reading mystery writers who did that in a way that slowed their stories to literary molasses. I didn't have that problem in this case, in part because poor Ryan was interesting and charming even when he was nattering, but, more importantly, because I didn't read it, I listened to it, and Mr. Crossley set a good pace.

Besides, her literary approach paid off. Freed from the usual genre constraints - and protections - she is free to allow her poor character to fall to pieces and mess everything up, "everything" including his investigation, his partnership, his career, and his life. I found this entertaining in the way that good psychological literature (and there is such a thing, Nabokov) is entertaining. I did sneer a little at the soap opera concerning Cassie, and it did turn into soap opera, even if I was vulgar enough to let his loss of her move me.

I was more impressed by her handling of Ryan's attempts to solve the crime committed against him. The strongest part of the novel, a chapter worthy of being included in an annual collection of horror stories, has the fool deciding to spend a night in the woods by himself with only a flashlight and a sleeping bag, hoping something will come out of his memory. What pops out of his memory is a vicious nightmare that has him running from the woods and, eventually, into Cassie's bed. I have rarely read a more convincing account of what a psychological trauma feels like. Of course I was shook by this because I have suffered panic attacks, and while driving a vehicle at high speeds. As I suspected would happen from page one, Ryan solves (halfway) the contemporary murder but not his crime. He must live with what he can't remember for the rest of his life. A sad, moving ending, that.

I would like to believe that French used her literary devices in part to conceal clues in her mystery. I missed one of the killers and a large part of the solution simply because I lazily accepted Ryan as a reliable narrator and a competent detective. I am the more embarrassed by this because I could tell that he was misjudging one character completely, a teenaged minx whom I correctly suspected of being behind the murder. I have been rarely angered by an author or a character, but when Ryan tried to make light of his blunder by claiming that the girl fooled his readers as much as she fooled him, I was mildly offended. ( )
  Coach_of_Alva | Nov 23, 2014 |
I liked Steven Crossley's rendering of the imperfect hero, which displayed his weaknesses while maintaining sympathy, if not respect. I liked even better his rendering of the spunky female detective who is his partner. I could envision her sitting in a chair, wearing her combat books, sneering at uncooperative bureaucrats. I didn't like his performance of the psychopathic teenage girl villainess as much, but he was fine as a befuddled rape victim, harassed father, little old Irish lady, gruff boss, etc. ( )
  Coach_of_Alva | Nov 23, 2014 |
WARNING: This post contains spoilers about In the Woods by Tana French.

In her debut psychological thriller IN THE WOODS, author Tana French weaves an intriguing story between the past and the present time. Twenty years ago, two young children disappeared in the woods around Knocknaree, Ireland, outside Dublin, and the third child involved, friends with the other two, who was found and rescued but left traumatized and with amnesia. The case remains unsolved.

In the present day, that third child, the one who was rescued, has grown up: he's called Rob Ryan, a change from his childhood name, and he's a detective in the murder jurisdiction of the local law enforcement. He and his partner Cassie, a long-time friend, take a case set in the very woods surrounding Knocknaree where Ryan was rescued and his friends vanished so long ago.

Now, a young girl is found, brutally murdered, on the site of an archaeological dig where experts work frantically to rescue as many artifacts as possible before a government-sanctioned roadway is built straight through the area, contrary to most of the residents' preferences. The girl's family gives every indication that something is wrong, but without a thorough investigation that drags Ryan back through all the hideous memories resurfacing from his past, he and Cassie will never find out what it is, let alone where the girl was murdered, who killed her, and whether her death had anything to do with her father's stance against the new roadway.

If the back copy of the book had not told me that the work was a psychological thriller, I might have called it literary fiction. The writing is dense and rich, with lovingly detailed descriptions that painted beautiful pictures of setting and people and conversations in my head as I read. Stylistically, it's a long work, with a first-person point-of-view narrator (Ryan) and the occasional omniscient break-in (most of the descriptions aren't rendered in Ryan's voice) that French manages to make seamless.

My favorite character of the work was Cassie Maddox, Ryan's partner, for her down-to-earth practicality and sisterly determination to protect Ryan from the current case and what it might make him remember of his past. Their relationship, that of best friends or blood relatives, is both intimate and platonic, involved and easy.

Skipping between Ryan's experiences in the present day and his slowly returning memories of his childhood maintains the tension and suspense throughout the work to the very end, where --- to be entirely honest --- I really didn't suspect the person who turned out to be the girl's killer. It was a shock, and something of a horrified realization when I finally put two and two together and came up with five in my head (sort of a "So that's why things never added up ..." moment).

I was, however, disappointed in the work as a whole. By the final chapters, there is little closure or redeemable quality to the work.

WARNING: SPOILERS FOLLOW

For instance, while the girl's killer is discovered, circumstances make it impossible to convince a jury of the killer's guilt. Meanwhile, Ryan makes a number of really irrational decisions and winds up distancing himself from everybody, even alienating his own partners on the case, and gets himself into serious career trouble. His partnership with Cassie is entirely demolished, without hope of resurrection.

Finally, to my disgust, the unexplained disappearance of Ryan's two friends and his trauma in the woods twenty years earlier ... is never resolved. Ryan's memories slip away; no new clues emerge; there is no new evidence to point to what happened. I was left wondering why on earth that old story had even been mentioned in relation to the current present-day narrative, since neither apparently had anything to do with the other.

It seems to me that when a book begins with a prologue that lures the reader in so explicitly with a mysterious, psychologically frightening puzzle of the sort presented by Ryan's childhood story, the book is also making an implicit promise to the reader: to tie up the loose ends somehow by the end of the book, to provide an answer to the riddle or a solution to the puzzle or at least closure in some way.

As it turned out, I felt cheated, having read more than four hundred pages of close text to discover ... nothing.

I had hoped to be as impressed with IN THE WOODS as other readers seem to be --- the work was a New York Times bestseller and an Edgar Award Winner, after all --- but I remain disappointed, and I can't see any reason to pick up her second book, THE LIKENESS, though it seems to be a companion novel to this one, to find out whether there's any more closure by its conclusion.

# # #

Title: IN THE WOODS
Author: Tana French
ISBN: 978-0-14-311349-2
Purchase here: http://amzn.to/1vrQOna

Disclaimer: The opinions I have expressed are my own. ( )
  Eleanore_Trupkiewicz | Nov 20, 2014 |
Overall this novel was very good. It took me awhile to connect to the main characters of the story, but by the end I felt heartbroken for them and the situation. The ending left some fairly major questions unanswered which is very irritating. Although the main problem/case in the book is solved, I was left feeling uneasy and unsatisfied at the end. ( )
  jmach226 | Nov 19, 2014 |
Going to the bookstores on weekends provides me with ideas for books I want to read. Years back I saw Faithful Place, Tana French’s third book in her Dublin Murder Squad series. If a title and jacket description grabs me I usually check on the author’s other publications. For some reason I didn’t – it was enough for me that the story took place in Ireland and it was also a mystery. Love both.

Recently I finished In The Woods, French’s first book. The book starts with the story of three children who disappear in the woods one afternoon. Jamie, Adam and Peter are very tight friends and have always been so for the twelve years they have lived in the neighborhood. One day they go off playing and don’t come back. Parents start a search, the garda is called in and they eventually find Adam Ryan clinging to a tree, blood in his shoes and slash marks across his back. Jamie and Peter were never found. Detectives talk to Adam but he was so traumatized by what happened that he can’t recall anything.

Fast forward 22 years and we are introduced to Rob Ryan, a detective with the Dublin Murder Squad. Rob is actually Adam Robert Ryan, the boy who was terrorized in the woods many years ago. He goes by his middle name so there is no association of the case where his friends went missing many years ago. He and his partner Cassie Maddox are assigned to investigate the murder of a twelve year old Katy Devlin. Katy’s body is found near the same woods where Rob’s friends had disappeared. Katy is discovered during an archaeological dig. Could this be related to the previous crime?

Rob and Cassie continue on with the investigation even though they know Rob should come clean with the supervisors about his true identity. It’s a gritty story, a good mystery. Rob is obviously scarred by his childhood experience. He’s overall a likeable character but has some serious flaws when dealing with relationships, particularly those with women.

*Possible Spoiler*

I had read some reviews and noted there are a few people who were very disappointed that the first mystery remains unsolved. I was rather hoping you would have some closure on what happened to Rob/Adam and his friends Jamie and Peter. It’s still my hope that French will one day come back to Rob Ryan’s story and give us some closure on the disappearing kids. I will tell you the murder of Katy Devlin is solved despite some real groaners of frustration near the end. Overall I loved this book and as I have already read book 3 in this series, I guess I will tackle book 2 next. ( )
  SquirrelHead | Oct 29, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 329 (next | show all)
Although she overburdens the traditional police-procedural form with the weight of romance, psychological suspense, social history and mythic legend, she sets a vivid scene for her complex characters, who seem entirely capable of doing the unexpected. Drawn by the grim nature of her plot and the lyrical ferocity of her writing, even smart people who should know better will be able to lose themselves in these dark woods.
 

» Add other authors (12 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Tana Frenchprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Crossley, StevenNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
"Probably just somebody's nasty black poodle. But I've always wondered...What if it really was Him, and He decided I wasn't worth it?"--Tony Kushner, A Bright Room Called Day
Dedication
For my father, David French,
and my mother, Elena Hvostoff-Lombardi
First words
Picture a summer stolen whole from some coming-of-age film set in small-town 1950s.
Quotations
What I am telling you, before you begin my story, is this--two things: I crave truth. And I lie.
We think about mortality so little, these days, except to flail hysterically at it with trendy forms of exercise and high-fiber cereals and nicotine patches.
To my mind the defining characteristic of our era is spin, everything tailored to vanishing point by market research, brands and bands manufactured to precise specifications; we are so used to things transmuting into whatever we would like them to be that it comes as a profound outrage to encounter death, stubbornly unspinnable, only and immutably itself.
"Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence," he told me reproachfully.
Maybe she, like me, would have loved the tiny details and the inconveniences even more dearly than the wonders, because they are the things that prove you belong.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0143113496, Paperback)

As dusk approaches a small Dublin suburb in the summer of 1984, mothers begin to call their children home. But on this warm evening, three children do not return from the dark and silent woods. When the police arrive, they find only one of the children gripping a tree trunk in terror, wearing blood-filled sneakers, and unable to recall a single detail of the previous hours.

Twenty years later, the found boy, Rob Ryan, is a detective on the Dublin Murder Squad and keeps his past a secret. But when a twelve-year-old girl is found murdered in the same woods, he and Detective Cassie Maddox—his partner and closest friend—find themselves investigating a case chillingly similar to the previous unsolved mystery. Now, with only snippets of long-buried memories to guide him, Ryan has the chance to uncover both the mystery of the case before him and that of his own shadowy past.

Richly atmospheric, stunning in its complexity, and utterly convincing and surprising to the end, In the Woods is sure to enthrall fans of Mystic River and The Lovely Bones. And look for French's new mystery, Broken Harbor, for more of the Dublin Murder Squad.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:25:58 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Detective Rob Ryan and his partner, Cassie Maddox, investigate the murder of a 12-year-old girl near a Dublin suburb. The case resonates with similarities to a murder committed twenty years before that involved two children and the young Ryan.

(summary from another edition)

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