In the Woods
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33 of 40 people found the following review helpful
on September 21, 2008
I loved this book so much --up until the very end-- that it breaks my heart to give it only two stars... Yet I'm sorely tempted to give it only one.

The plot was fascinating, the characters were vivid and complex, the prose was elegant yet engaging, the dialogue was convincing and lively... I was thrilled with this book, and felt I had found an exciting new author to follow, and a new art in a genre that usually leaves me cold. But no, I'll probably never read another book by Tana French.

There are all sort of implicit agreements between an author and his or her readers, and chief among them is the unspoken promise that the author will not leave you hanging, flapping in the wind with no resolution or explanation by the end of the story. With that trust we go forward. With that trust we invest the hours and attention, staying up way too late to devour just a few more pages, and then a few more; stealing off to read for a few minutes, one ear cocked for bosses or parents or kids or spouses, when we should really be spending our time more productively; and, finally, picking up our book with a rush of gratitude and a sigh of happy contentment in those precious moments of perfectly free time.

Jana French broke this trust with "In the Woods" and though it's actually one of the best new books I've read in a while otherwise, I won't run the risk of being fooled again. If her non-resolution of one of the two mysteries that form the spine of the tale is an attempt at a sort of artful meta-commentary on the nature of trust and disappointment as demonstrated in the rest of the story, I have to say that for me it fell totally, utterly flat. If, on the other hand, it was meant to be a way to kick off a series, with readers always hopeful that the core mystery will be resolved by the end of four or five or six or 26 books, I'm even more thoroughly disgusted. I won't be blackmailed into buying more of the same, desperately hoping that the tale that was promised in the first book will finally be told.

It's a shame, too, because if it weren't for that stunt, I'd be lining up for the next one... I would have loved to continue on with these characters and this author; I didn't need to have my hand held over the flame.
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33 of 40 people found the following review helpful
on February 7, 2012
What a bizarre review to write. I ultimately decided to give the book one star because most people only read the 1-star and 5-star reviews. But one star isn't accurate. The only accurate rating is to disqualify this novel.

Spoiler: To me, it's unforgivable to write a mystery novel in which the mystery isn't resolved. Yes, we find out who killed Katy, but even that felt unsatisfying. As others have mentioned, the killer was the character that acted most suspicious. But that's fine. It's hard to fool everyone, and as long as the mystery wraps up nicely, even obvious killers can be part of interesting stories. The unforgivable part is creating a secondary mystery (which, to me, became the primary mystery) that is left completely unresolved. I've never been so angry. I felt betrayed.

Which is the sad part, because other than that monumental betrayal, I loved French's writing style. I was hooked by her storytelling. The characters were interesting, and the pace (although slow at times) created a real page-turner.

With a satisfactory resolution, I would have given this book at least four stars. Maybe five with a truly brilliant ending. This isn't a 1-star book. Like I said, great writing, great pace, great storytelling. That's why I need a different rating system.

I spent hours of my life reading this book. I spent hard-earned money. I became emotionally invested. Authors can't set up readers and then pull out the rug from beneath them. Not with mystery novels. Life is uncertain. Novels demand resolution. That's why "In the Woods" falls short, which is sad, because it could have been a truly excellent novel.
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22 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on December 29, 2007
I'm in complete agreement about the ending. To give the reader all that about the crime in 1984 and not resolve it. Completely unacceptable. There aren't even any viable possibilities. Were they eaten, do you suppose? I agree also that the mystery of the 1984 crime is what keeps you involved. The relationship between Ryan and Cassie? Contrived but forgivably so if it was going to get us to the bottom of the 1984 crime.

I'm baffled by why the book's considered such an achievement. Sections are beautifully written. Yes. Others verrrrryy awkward. Rosalind's untrustworthiness completely obvious (that might have been intentional to show Ryan's unreliability, but I don't think the writer had enough control to make clear how we were to take his blindness).

Also, I was willing to suspend all the "Hey, wait a minute . . ." thoughts I had about how a person who had been a victim of a hugely famous crime could become a cop without anyone knowing. Are we to understand that Ireland's police are so backward that they wouldn't have any way of tracing that? Is that why it's set in 1997? to get around those pesky questions and leave it all explained by a lack of technology? Surely there would be psychological screening?
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38 of 47 people found the following review helpful
on August 16, 2007
This book deals with the investigation of the murder of a child by a trio of detectives. The detective through whose eyes we see the story is heavily damaged by a similar episode in his own past, and the book is an in-depth study of his own issues as much as it is a murder mystery.

And, bless it, it does have one ambiguous storyline that lends itself to discussion and argument. I found it very satisfying. It's not a quick, shallow, connect-the-dots cozy. The writing is lyrical, the characters are complex. It lends itself to a second reading with pencil in hand to note themes and recurrent images - a great pleasure for those of us who will always be life's lit majors. Anyone who has read Donna Tartt's "The Secret History" will hear some echoes.

If you must have all your little plot lines tied up with big bows on them in the last 4 pages of the book, this is obviously not a good choice for you, as some of the other reviews suggest.

Could I find fault with it? Not much. [This from a reader whose criticisms, large and small, about every single book our mystery group read were the despair of the rest of the members]. A little too much foreshadowing (problem solved if about 2 sentences were cut), and some readers will not be entirely confined by the main character's viewpoint and may reach conclusions about the murder before he does. And I'm not even sure that the latter is a fault, as it adds to our opinions on his own character.
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on August 8, 2007
The lyric prose and wonderful descriptions make the book worth reading. However, the main character is unlikable---close to being despicable in his treatment of his partner. The ending fails to resolve the more interesting of the two mysteries or to punish the wicked satisfactorily. Those things reduce the enjoyment ratio drastically. Toward the end the main character excuses himself for failing to recognize the true villain by suggesting the reader didn't do any better with the same information. Au contraire, it was fairly easy to spot that person early on.

Ms. French is wonderfully talented. I hope her next book will prove a better overall read.
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108 of 140 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon June 14, 2007
First of all, beware that the review from K. Schlotterback (baaaad ending) contains a spoiler!!! So don't read it if you don't want to know one of the ending points. On to the story, really compelling! The interaction of the partners as they investigate the murder, was great reading. I hope we haven't seen the last of these characters! As an aside, the Ireland setting is fun too, as is deciphering the Irish colloquialisms. Terrific first outing!
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on October 12, 2007
I was instantly taken with the premise of the story and the characters. The deep background on Ireland just added to my expectations. However, this is the most frustrating type of book for me...it holds together for 3/4 of the book and then just falls apart. By that time, you've already invested too much time to simply put it back on the shelf (and it is a long book!) so you've got to get through to the end knowing that you've wasted time that you'll never regain. Unfortunately, you can't get too specific without giving away the ending, but suffice it to say that I felt a different author must have written the last chapters without consulting the first one. That said, if you're the kind of person who can buy a book knowing you'll enjoy only part of a story or a story for what it could have been, this will fit the bill.
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57 of 73 people found the following review helpful
In the Woods is smartly written and rich in uncommon vocabulary and vivid descriptions. So much so that some readers may be able to forgive the ridiculous plot. During the first few hundred pages, it would be tough to complain about the story, clues and character development in a book of this genre. But once the perpetrator and the motive are revealed, the reader will be too busy scratching his or her head to pay much attention to the rest, which is just as well since some major plot details are never resolved and others just plain don't make sense. A happy ending in a murder mystery is neither required nor expected; however, a cohesive resolution is. Killer writing, lifeless plot. Better but different: The Wasp Factory by Ian Banks and An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser.
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48 of 61 people found the following review helpful
This is a terrific NOVEL that happens to be a murder mystery as well. It is one of the best books I have ever read - interesting plot that gradually and naturally unfolds, complex and interesting characters, realistic dialog, and a theme that raises (and resolves) larger issues. First-rate; I only hope the author will write many more books and live forever!
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Warning - Spoiler Alert!!
As other reviewer's have stated, the ending does leave you a bit discouraged, but I do believe this was the intention of the author. At the beginning of the book, you really like Ryan, and feel a little sorry for him. He is charming, and seems intelligent. But as the book progresses, you start to see the dark nature, of Ryan, and you like him less and less. I think it is important to pay close attention to the relationship between Rosalind and Ryan. The author makes a point to show how Ryan feels connected to this girl, and when the truth of her nature comes out, he still does not want to believe it - almost as if he was being forced to face the true nature of himself. Cassie defines Rosalind as a psychopath. Remember, the story is being told, by Ryan, so we are reading his interpretation of the events. "psychopathy consists of a specific set of personality traits and behaviors. Superficially charming, psychopaths tend to make a good first impression on others and often strike observers as remarkably normal. Yet they are self-centered, dishonest and undependable, and at times they engage in irresponsible behavior for no apparent reason other than the sheer fun of it. Largely devoid of guilt, empathy and love, they have casual and callous interpersonal and romantic relationships. Psychopaths routinely offer excuses for their reckless and often outrageous actions, placing blame on others instead. They rarely learn from their mistakes or benefit from negative feedback, and they have difficulty inhibiting their impulses". If you look at the definition of psychopath and Ryan's behaviour throughout the book, you start to wonder whether or not he himself is a psychopath. And if he is, then maybe it is clear who the real criminal is, in the 1984 crime... Ryan admitted that Peter, Jamie, and himself knew that wood better than anybody, and knew about all of it's secret hiding places. Also, Peter & Jamie were the ones who wanted to run away - Ryan really did not want to. I think Ms. French intended for the reader to come to this conclusion. I think the current crime was used to show the parallelism between Rosalind and Ryan, so the reader could solve the 1984 crime without being told. This would make this story quite intelligent. A true psychological thriller. Speculation - but something to think about.

Overall - I thought this was a truly entertaining book.
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