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

by Tana French

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
8,713534692 (3.78)681
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.
Member:lauralkeet
Title:In the Woods
Authors:Tana French
Info:Penguin (Non-Classics) (2008), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 464 pages
Collections:Removed from Library, British
Rating:***
Tags:read in 2013, fiction, swapped, irish authors, woman authors, mystery

Work details

In the Woods by Tana French (2007)

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» See also 681 mentions

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Showing 1-5 of 519 (next | show all)
It has a good introduction, creative imagery. The text is clever, smart. It’s all-around a five star book.

It’s going to sound weird, but what made me fall in love with the book was the sentences. They’re fantastic. Each one is well-constructed, but they always communicate new ideas. Things I hadn’t thought of before. There’re no attempts at trying to be The Dutch House or Where the Crawdads Sing.

My usual problem with “whydunits” is that the detectives don’t change. It would be wrong to say they are not character-based, but their fatal flaw is also why they’re such a good detective. Good whydunits have a dark turn, where the hero has to break their integrity/personal code/innocence to solve the case. The desire for justice is so strong, the detective has to decide how much they pay of themselves. And sometimes the detective can overpay and ruin the whole thing.

Anyway, my point is mysteries don’t have typical story protagonists. They are the same person from the beginning of the story to the end. This is why there are so many mystery series–the story changes but the main character doesn’t. He/she doesn’t get fixed, doesn’t learn anything. He/she already has all the tools to solve the problem (which is really someone else’s problem).

They are single solid archetypes–Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, Sam Spade, Jessica Fletcher, Shawn Spencer, even the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. Encyclopedia Brown is same person in book 1 as he is in book 237. Columbo is still a trenchcoated grumpy old man. Sherlock Holmes is still an asshole.

This is not that story. This is a story about a character. A character who wants something, who has a problem, and a need to learn a life lesson. In other words, not your typical mystery. Read it. ( )
  theWallflower | Sep 20, 2021 |
I devoured the first half of this book. I thought I had found my spirit book. No dice, unfortunately. There are two mysteries in this book, and one doesn't get resolved. In a thriller. I mean. I really don't have add anything else, do I? ( )
  mariu911 | Sep 6, 2021 |
“In The Woods” by Tana French

This was the second Tana French novel I read, the first being “The Wych Elm”, a standalone murder mystery.

“In The Woods” is the first book about The Dublin Murder Squad, an imagined specialist murder investigation unit with An Garda Síochána (literally, “Guardians of the Pease”), Ireland’s National Police and Security Service.

French’s Ireland is very authentic and she really puts across the thoughts and motivations of the characters involved. She must be a very skilled observer of human behaviour and reading this book I felt the characters were very plausible and their environment realistic. The author got the political machinations of the time the story was set in perfect. While her details, such as the delays to a much needed motorway being delayed due to archaeological digs were fictitious they did reflect real events that held up part of the M50 motorway for years. The political, both local and national, manoeuvrings were likewise fictitious, but real life examples of them are well documented in the newspapers and TV news reports of the time. Some of them even ended up in court records.

While she did make the occasional faux pas about Irish life*, she did such a great job with the authenticity of people’s lives in Ireland, and of the socio-political environment of the time, the odd faux pas did not take away from the pleasure of reading the book and can be easily forgiven.

The murder mystery involves parallels with a disappearance in the same area some twenty years previously, and this provides plenty of interesting twists and possibilities to the plot. I can safely say, Tana French is a master at stirring possibilities in the mind of the reader and sending them off on many different paths following red herrings, and possibly not so red herrings. She keeps the reader guessing and is very good at sowing seeds of misdirection.

This story is as much about the lives of the people involved as it is about solving the murder mystery and I found myself wondering if I was being deliberately mislead by the narrator, or if the narrator was misinterpreting events around them.

I would not describe this as a cosy crime novel, but nor is it gruesome. It is realistic.

Would I read another book by this author? Yes!

Would I recommend this book? Yes!

Who would I recommend it to? Any one interested in murder mysteries.

*A life-long advocate of Guinness drinking Guinness from a can; An Irish person calling a ladybird a ladybug. ( )
  pgmcc | Aug 31, 2021 |
“Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”
TANA FRENCH – IN THE WOODS

**Some Spoilers Within**

When I first spied the cover at the library checkout while picking up my stack of holds, it freaked me out and flung me back a couple of decades to the terror that consumed me when watching The Blair Witch Project; the last horror film I have seen.

As I paused and did a double-take on the Returns bin four steps to my left, an ominous feeling settled in my stomach, signalling me to skip it and bolt.

Emboldened by the rave reviews for the Dublin Murder Squad series and my love of Ireland, I chose courage and decided to give In The Woods a chance. Now, pleased not to have caved to my inner scaredy-cat, I can report there is suspense, there are thrilling angles, and there is even a smattering of Celtic lore, but no horror, phew!

Rob Ryan is our narrator and protagonist, a sad sort, shaken and traumatised by earth-shattering loss in his early years; loss of memory, loss of friends, loss of time. I am no clinician, and this is fiction, but given the numerous trauma responses he elicits throughout the novel, it would seem he suffers chronic PTSD.

He never admits to any diagnosis that I can recall but does acknowledge upfront that he is prone to lying, no matter how much he craves the truth.

Although lying is not necessarily a trait of PTSD, it could help a sufferer avoid their issues as they flounder for control, avoidance being a dominating factor with the affliction.

Deception being an obligatory qualification of his career, he seems to share his propensity to fabricate with occupational pride; in Rob, we have the quintessential unreliable narrator.

At least his desire for truth stands to reason, evidenced by his search to learn more about his disassociated past. But how far will he detour to find out what happened?

As I tore through his story, I enjoyed the element of playing detective and tried to determine which parts of his narrative were truthful, which were the falsehoods, and most importantly, which were the lies that he told to fool himself. The skill of French’s writing ensures all three.

Cassie is a champ. In her new position as Inspector at the Dublin Murder Squad, her bravery is admirable, as she charges ahead, the only woman in a male-dominated landscape.

A role model to any woman, she faces life on her terms and will not let anyone or their conventions control her outcomes, regardless of the challenges posed against her.

This Vespa-driving rebel is a ride-or-die kind of girl with the grit to overcome, and I now have an answer when a blogger asks me which fictional character I would choose to be my bestie, haha!

“I can’t explain the alchemy that transmuted one evening into the equivalent of years held lightly in common. The only way I can put it is that we recognized, too surely even for surprise, that we shared the same currency.”

A loyal, patient, and formidable detective with a psychology background and an affinity for profiling, Cassie is the perfect fit for Rob, both as a professional partner and friend. But does he have the self-awareness to recognise what is best for him even when it’s dangling within his grasp?

“The girls I dream of are the gentle ones, wistful by high windows or singing sweet old songs at a piano, long hair drifting, tender as apple blossom. But a girl who goes into battle beside you and keeps your back is a different thing, a thing to make you shiver. Think of the first time you slept with someone, or the first time you fell in love: that blinding explosion that left you cracking to the fingertips with electricity, initiated and transformed. I tell you that was nothing, nothing at all, beside the power of putting your lives, simply and daily, into each other’s hands.”

The rookie inspectors are on the case of a young teen found murdered on an archaeological dig flanked by an apartment complex where she lived and the encroaching woods. Both of these places are familiar to Rob and his silent past, as the decades apart storylines become enmeshed and the mystery concentrated.

With no choice but to keep his story secret to avoid removal due to conflict of interest, he attempts to gain an understanding of what happened to him and his two friends in those woods so many years ago.

“There was a time when I believed I was the redeemed one, the boy borne safely home on the ebb of whatever freak tide carried Peter and Jamie away. Not any more. In ways too dark and crucial to be called metaphorical, I never left that wood.”

The true beauty of this tale is in its lyrical prose, but I took the most pleasure in the mind-fuck of psychological analysis through expertly drawn character development.

Real people, flawed and reactionary, had me whipping through these pages. Rob’s base instincts coming to the fore, as survival and coping skills present under cover of selfishness and ego, while he sacrifices others for his cause. But don’t worry, he will turn the sword unto himself, as personal-sabotage is never far away.

Rob is a blinding example of how certain traumas can erode a sense of self, how a lad can become convinced they are not worthy of connection and love.

When others are brave enough to attempt to crack the walls around that fortified heart, the traumatic brain will do anything in its power to push those people away, so that vulnerability is not an option. It is self-preservation at its most animal form, and it keeps suffers alone and broken.

After personally spending decades white-knuckling it through my days in this described state, I found the relatable-ness of Rob’s behaviour to be comforting. French offers one of the clearest literary examples of this textbook response to trauma that I have read, and given that I thought I was getting your usual police procedural novel, I was duly surprised by this cerebral bonus.

One of the more jarring police interviews in the novel detailed a teenage group sexual assault, which I feel I should mention here in the interest of warning those hoping to skip such incidents.

That said, it was not overly gratuitous, and gave me a lot to think about. I appreciated how the surfacing of this event years later during this murder case saw the rapist as someone with remorse evident when confronted with his detestable actions. I like to hope that even scumbags would at least feel bad about stealing a piece of someone’s soul.

Humans are resilient, and no matter victim or perpetrator, they can overcome the ills that have threatened to take them down. Doing the work necessary to face the reality of one’s experiences, gives you back your power and leaves you with the control to access those things that happened when and how you see fit, not when they decide to highjack you.

Rob is a tortured soul in multiple ways, not the least of which being survivor’s guilt. With the loss of his best friends and no memory of why he was the only one spared disappearance, his fractured mind is left to make sense of it and finds a way to blame himself for making it out of those woods alive.

“Sometimes I think about the sly, flickering line that separates being spared from being rejected. Sometimes I think of the ancient gods who demanded that their sacrifices be fearless and without blemish, and I wonder whether, whoever or whatever took Peter and Jamie away, it decided I wasn’t good enough.”

The Who-Done-It? aspect of this mystery was sufficiently undetected by me until near the time of its reveal, although I know a couple of other people who were able to figure it out earlier on. If I were to guess, aiming my attention at the psychological study playing out in the background and seeing the mystery as secondary helped me stay unawares in this regard.

This book was published in 2007 so I know I’m severely late to Tana French, aka the First Lady of Irish Crime’s party. As such, I have had occasion to hear other readers say they were disappointed by a lack of closure, and the tonnes of unanswered questions they didn’t know what to do with. To this I say, I am okay with that. This is the first in a long series, and with all of the bread crumbs French so expertly laid for me to follow In The Woods, I willingly, for(a)ge ahead in anticipation.

To see the Celtic Triquerta Bookmark I was inspired to make visit my peachybooks.ca blog post for this review here: https://peachybooks.ca/2021/08/19/book-review-in-the-woods-by-tana-french/ ( )
  PeachyBooksCA | Aug 19, 2021 |
John Brennan recommendation ( )
  wordloversf | Aug 14, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 519 (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 editionscalculated
Wang, JenniferCover artistmain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Crossley, StevenNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Resnick, NancyDesignersecondary 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.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Publisher's editors
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Information from the Italian Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
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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.

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Book description
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 and stunning in its complexity, In the Woods is utterly convincing and surprising to the end.
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