Review: In the Woods by Tana French

Monday, December 3, 2012

Title: In the Woods
Series: Dublin Murder Squad #1
Author: Tana French
Pages: 429
Genre: fiction, mystery, literary
Publisher: Viking (Penguin)
Pub. Date: May 17, 2007 (hardcover); May 27, 2008 (paperback)

I've had In the Woods on my "must-read" list essentially since it came out and everyone raved about how amazingly wonderful it was. I'm glad I was finally motivated to start attacking my "must-read" list (where, ironically, books waste away never being read); and while I did think it was a fantastic read, I was disappointed too. I'll explain why, but I think it stems mostly from the unrealistically high expectations I incurred after reading so many great reviews over the years. Because apparently, I have had this book on my list for five years!!

Quick summary for those who aren't yet in the know: in 1984, three kids in Knocknaree, Ireland, disappear in the woods; two of those children are never found. Adam Robert Ryan is found alone with unexplained injuries but has no memory of what happened. Years later, Adam is Detective Rob Ryan; he still has no memory of the events but is forced to face this wall blocking his memories when he investigates a case in which a 12-year-old girl's body has been found in those same woods. Ryan takes on the case without letting anyone know of his personal connection.

The rest of In the Woods is the investigation of the case by Ryan, combined with the story of Ryan's trying to reach for the lost memories (for the investigation but also for himself), and a look into his close relationship with his work partner, Cassie Maddox. (Can men and women be just friends, especially as close as they are?) French does an amazing job with the story and with the characters. Although there was an investigation going on, the crux of the story seemed to be more about the characters, and I was easily drawn in. The backstory was engaging, as were their daily interactions. As hefty as the book seemed, I couldn't put it down. But I'll admit, part of what kept me reading was because I wanted to find out what all the crazy twists were that I was expecting.... but in the end I felt like it was significantly more a typical mystery than any type of thriller, much less a pyschological thriller. While there was a lot of discussion about psychological factors, which was very interesting, I think of the genre "psychological thriller", which this book is often billed as, as more so books that mess with the readers' minds, where not everything is as it seems. And unless I missed something, I felt this was fairly straightforward. Some complaints from those that have voiced them, is that the author left some questions unanswered in the end. That didn't bother me.. the questions unanswered weren't necessary to me, but I did feel like she was building up to it so, while it didn't bother me, I could see why some people felt they were left hanging.

So, I was definitely a fan and will eventually read more in the series. But it wasn't as crazy as I was expecting it to be.


Sandy Nawrot said...

Well that is the downfall of everyone going nuts over an author. It is nearly impossible to match the expectation. So I'm sorry this one didn't quite measure up. I read The Likeness first, then this one. Also this was the only French book I read versus listened to on audio. But I loved it, more for the palpable chemistry between the characters than the mystery itself. Plus there was just this atmosphere that hung over the entire story. I can't get enough of this author.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I loved this book UNTIL the ending! I hated the ending! LOL But I still really like the author and have read her other books as well. Her dialogue is just so great, I think!

Marce said...

Like you, this has been on my list for awhile also and I keep on saying soon. I have to be honest the Psychological Thriller part was what intrigued me, sigh, I would be disappointed if I agreed with you.

Hmmm we will see, still sounds great but I need to change my focus.

Juju at Tales of said...

Right on :) I hope your next read is earth moving.

Zibilee said...

I am in the middle of this one, so I didn't read your full review. I already know that the stories don't get solved in the way readers love, but I am terribly caught up in all this, and the audio production is outstanding. As a matter of fact, while I am thinking about this book, I can clearly imagine the voice of the narrator, which is so fitting and wonderful.

Jenners said...

Oh I just adore Tana French and I think her books get better and better. I can see why you might have been let down … and this is definitely one of her more straightforward books. Yet the tension between Cassie and Rob is what was so suspenseful for me. Please try another French book!!

nomadreader said...

I've had this one on my TBR list for years too--and I even received an e-book copy of it for Christmas last year with confidence I'd read it in 2012. I suppose there's still time! I may start this series next, as I've just finished the last Alafair Burke and can now devote myself to a new mystery author's backlist.

Ti said...

It wasn't crazy and in fact, it was a bit slow if I recall. I liked it quite a bit but I guess not enough to read the other books. I've not read any since Woods.

Michelle (Red Headed Book Child) said...

All of her books are connected in a loose way and most people hated the ending to In the Woods. I'm glad you enjoyed it atleast. I love all of her books.

Trish said...

I think I've heard that her other ones are better than this one? I haven't been terribly interested but RhapsodyJill mentioned something about Broken Harbor that sparked my interest. Too bad I can't remember what that was. ;)

And my TBR list sounds like yours! I blame blogging. Ha!

Aarti said...

I know what you mean about books that you are SO excited about that they can't help but disappoint you. That happens to me a lot, too, and so sometimes I'll wait a very long time to read a book in hopes that I forget about all the hype surrounding it.

And I know what you mean about the TBR pile growing dustier and dustier!

Marlene Detierro said...

Wow, I'm so intrigued after reading this but I don't want to be depressed. I don't know what to do about this one. I love mysteries but I don't want my heart broken by the romance either. Wonderful review. :)

Marlene Detierro (Pay Dirt)

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