A Book Review: In the Woods by Tana French
The gloomy winter weather we’ve been experiencing in the Deep South has definitely fit the mood of the latest book on my list, Tana French’s debut novel In the Woods. The whodunit mystery takes place in modern day Ireland and is told from the point-of-view of Rob Ryan, a detective on the Murder squad. Twenty odd years ago, Ryan and his two friends went into the woods not far from their homes, and only Ryan returned. He has no memory of the event and absolutely no idea what happened to his missing friends. Now, he and his partner Cassie Maddox have been assigned to the murder of a twelve year old girl in his hometown of Knocknaree. While trying to find her killer, Ryan begins to uncover memories that he believed had been lost forever.
I love French’s book because it’s like a question wrapped in an enigma and deep fried in mystery. Who killed a promising, bright young girl? Why? And, the biggest question of all, what happened twenty years ago in the woods of Knocknaree? While there were some predictable elements to the story, I found there was a lot of fresh innovation on French’s part as well. The suspense really kept me going, and I finished this 400+ page novel in a matter of days.
While the plot itself is good on its own, the driving force behind In the Woods is the absolutely wonderful characterization. This book has some of the most fleshed out characters I’ve ever had the opportunity to know, and they come across as very real. Rob Ryan points out from the very beginning that he is a liar and asks the reader to keep that in mind while reading his story. Throughout the novel, French pulls you into the dynamic relationship of Ryan and Cassie Maddox, who have been partners for years, and the obstacles they face as Ryan begins to lose his grip on reality. The two main characters aren’t the only ones the reader really gets to know; every character, suspect and innocent alike, are more than just flat good and bad. They have soul. And in the end, not every character gets a happy ending, which makes In the Woods even more lifelike and (in my opinion) enjoyable.
The only problem I really had with In the Woods is that it tended to drag in places due to the unnecessary descriptions. However, since this is Tana French’s first novel, it is understandable and the suspense and characters were more than enough fuel to keep me going through the slower parts. This is a great book to read if you've got a few hours to kill on a rainy day or need something to keep you entertained on a long trip. I feel that Mrs. French shows a lot of promise with this first novel, and I definitely plan to read any other works of hers I can get my hands on.