Saturday, 31 January 2009

In the Woods

I first read about In the Woods by Tana French, here on Deslily's blog. Knowing that we have similar tastes in books and that neither of us are what you might call big crime book fans, it occurred to me that this must be pretty good if she liked it. So I nabbed it from the library and have finished it, so it qualifies for my first book for J. Kaye's Support your local library challenge.



The story is set in Ireland - near Dublin to be precise. Adam 'Rob' Ryan is a detective with the murder squad. He is also a survivor. Twenty years ago, aged twelve, he was playing in the woods with two friends when something happened. His two friends disappeared, never to be seen again, and Adam was found against the trunk of a tree, his shoes full of blood, rips on the back of his T shirt, terrified out of his mind. He remembers nothing of what happened and the police never solved the crime. Twenty years later the body of a twelve year old girl is found in the same spot, close to an archaelogical dig. 'Rob' gets himself assigned to the case. The only person who knows who he really is, is his partner, Cassie, and Rob keeps it that way. The case proves complicated. All kinds of secrets come to light and all the time there is the brooding presence of the wood, affecting Rob's mind, as he tries to remember what happened twenty years ago.

I believe this is Tana French's debut novel. If so it's a splendid debut! She tells the story in the first person, from Rob's point of view, and as such it becomes a very personal story. 'His' story. He's flawed, there's no doubt about it, and we see him warts and all but at the same time it's very easy to see where he's coming from. The author does a fantastic job of getting right inside his head; nothing he does seems that bizarre to the reader.

I liked very much the mix of the cold case scenario and the present day crime, I thought that worked very well indeed. And the setting of the woods was particularly well done. The author used that to frightening effect, reminding me slightly of The Blair Witch movie! I didn't actually guess who the perpetrator of the crime was but I did guess another crucial factor. It didn't spoil it for me in any way because it was fascinating seeing how the author went about revealing this fact and as the reader you kind of wanted to give 'Rob' a good shake and say, 'Look... see what's in front of you, for goodness sake!'

On Amazon there are a few comments about the book's ending. I know what they're referring to and I see what they mean, but I'm not sure how these people failed to understand exactly what happened. It was quite obvious to me and I loved that the author did what she did. Not saying another thing. I loved this book, it might not be to the taste of those who like their crime books to be straightforward, but if you like a psychological sort of yarn that's a bit spooky and where the main characters are very flawed, then this book is for you.

14 comments:

DesLily said...

really glad you enjoyed this one Cath.. considering I don't read crime much I found this book appealing and a fast read! Are you going to get her second book? lol..

Cath said...

It was just *so* gripping. The kind of book you didn't want to put down and every time you'd got five minutes free you picked it up to read another few pages. I wish more books were like it. Thanks for reccing this one, Pat.

Yes, I shall definitely be reading her second book.

Nymeth said...

This is very much unlike the kind of book I normally read, but how can I resist so many great reviews? To my RIP IV mental list it goes!

BooksPlease said...

I like cold case scenario stories and also a "psychological sort of yarn that's a bit spooky" - just the sort of description to get me interested. I'll be looking out for this book.

J. Kaye said...

I really want to read this book! It sounds like a book I'd enjoy greatly.

Kay said...

I'm looking forward to reading this one as soon as I finish my current read (which isn't going fast enough for me). Great review!

Danielle said...

This sounds wonderful and I love anything 'psychological and spooky'! I've had it on my pile for a while, so once again I'm saying I will read this next (I keep getting sidetracked).

Cath said...

Nymeth: I would think In the Woods would be an ideal book for the next RIP challenge. It's delightfully spooky.

Booksplease: I would think your library should have it as it seems to be pretty popular.

J.Kaye: It's well worth reading, a truly engrossing book.

Kay: I'll be really interested to hear what you think of the book once you've read it.

Danielle: Oh, I know all about getting sidetracked! This one is worth getting to fairly quickly though, imo.

Tara said...

I am one who felt a little jipped by the ending. Now, it's been a while since I finished this, so I'm a little hazy on the details but would you please tell me what you mean by understanding 'exactly what happened.' I liked so many things about this book so I'd love to know your thoughts. French's second book The Likeness is great too, I liked it even more!

Cath said...

Reply to Tara about In the Woods... PLEASE DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVEN'T READ THE BOOK BECAUSE IT WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS.

Tara: I know it sounds a little weird but for me this was a supernatural thriller, not an ordinary crime story. I felt all the way through that what happened to the children in the 1980s did not have an ordinary explanation. There were scenes that bore this out - Rob being completely freaked out when he was in the woods at night, for instance. There was no rational explanation for that kind of terror. Also the strange noises heard and weird shapes seen in the trees by various characters, how wildlife suddenly went silent etc. The rips on the back of Adam's T shirt were also extremely odd. Then at the end Rob was handed the little figure of a man with antlers, that the construction chap had found stuck to his shoe. Perhaps I've read far too much weird fiction, I don't know, but it was just so obvious to me that the goings on in the woods were connected in some supernatural way with that. Rob has the chance to keep it but gives it back quickly. I shuddered when the man said he was going to give it to his grandson! That's my take on it anyway. I've no idea if that's what the author intended. It does seem a bit of an odd mix... crime and the supernatural, but there's no reason why not. If Deslily reads this I'd be interested to know if she agrees with me...

Tara said...

SPOILER ALERT!

Okay, thanks for your explanation. I can totally see what you mean - the woods did seem haunted. I'm going to have to go back and reread the part about the man with antlers. I love your interpretation.

Cath said...

Tara: that was my take on the book anyway. It might not be the right one or perhaps the author just decided to leave it to the reader's imagination. Not many authors do that but it makes it kind of interesting when they do.

Danielle said...

Just skimmed your post as I am reading this now and it's excellent! :)

Cath said...

Danielle: I *really* can't wait to read your review. Will keep an eye out.