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In the Woods: A Novel Paperback – May 27, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Irish author French expertly walks the line between police procedural and psychological thriller in her debut. When Katy Devlin, a 12-year-old girl from Knocknaree, a Dublin suburb, is found murdered at a local archeological dig, Det. Rob Ryan and his partner, Cassie Maddox, must probe deep into the victim's troubled family history. There are chilling similarities between the Devlin murder and the disappearance 20 years before of two children from the same neighborhood who were Ryan's best friends. Only Maddox knows Ryan was involved in the 1984 case. The plot climaxes with a taut interrogation by Maddox of a potential suspect, and the reader is floored by the eventual identity and motives of the killer. A distracting political subplot involves a pending motorway in Knocknaree, but Ryan and Maddox are empathetic and flawed heroes, whose partnership and friendship elevate the narrative beyond a gory tale of murdered children and repressed childhood trauma. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio Cassette edition.
*Starred Review* Rob Ryan and his partner, Cassie Maddox, land the first big murder case of their police careers: a 12-year-old girl has been murdered in the woods adjacent to a Dublin suburb. Twenty years before, two children disappeared in the same woods, and Ryan was found clinging to a tree trunk, his sneakers filled with blood, unable to tell police anything about what happened to his friends. Ryan, although scarred by his experience, employs all his skills in the search for the killer and in hopes that the investigation will also reveal what happened to his childhood friends. In the Woods is a superior novel about cops, murder, memory, relationships, and modern Ireland. The characters of Ryan and Maddox, as well as a handful of others, are vividly developed in this intelligent and beautifully written first novel, and author French relentlessly builds the psychological pressure on Ryan as the investigation lurches onward under the glare of the tabloid media. Equally striking is the picture of contemporary Ireland, booming economically and fixated on the shabbiest aspects of American popular culture. An outstanding debut and a series to watch for procedural fans. Thomas Gaughan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Audio Cassette edition.
Top customer reviews
This novel is actually about two different mysteries - two crimes that happened in the same area but at two different points in time.
The first involved a case from back in 1984 where three 12 year old children went missing in the woods in the countryside in Ireland. Two of the children - a young boy named Peter and a young girl named Jamie were never found. Their third friend was a young boy named Adam, and he was found dazed in the woods with blood on his shoes and in an almost catatonic state. He was so traumatized he has no memory of what happened, and in fact much of his childhood memories were wiped out.
From there we are taken to modern day times when detectives Cassie Maddox and Rob Ryan are assigned a case where a young 12 year old girl named Katie is found murdered in those same woods. We know from the start that Rob Ryan is young Adam - but his parents sent him away after his friends went missing and he subsequently changed his name before he came back to Ireland. It was the luck of the draw that Rob and Cassie got this case, and despite both of their misgivings he stays on the case even though the crime from 1984 and the present day crime may be related.
I thought the book was a fun read and I couldn't put it down towards the end. On the plus side it's a page-turner and moody and evocative and just a fun read. Who doesn't like that?
On the other hand, there were a few things that I thought prevented this from being even better. For one thing - and this is fairly minor - I figured out part of the present-day mystery early on. I say part because to the writer's credit it was more complicated than I thought.
I also felt a little writer-manipulation when it came to some of the foreboding and thoughts from Adam's POV which seemed erratic and so undependable. Note that I understand the trauma he went through as a child, but it still felt off to me and I'm not sure how real a character he felt to me by the end.
Which leads to my biggest problem - that he would stay on the case when he realized there may be some connection with the older case. Even if we bought that he was so psychologically messed up that his judgment was suspect, Cassie's shouldn't have been and she (and any other detective) would've realized his involvement could possibly affect the case it could be compromised by this. There was an immediate, "What were they thinking" right off the bat for me.
At the same time, I did enjoy this book a lot and I would check out another mystery by this author.
*Note, I know there has been a lot of criticism about the end of this book but it did not bother me at all. I don't want to give more away than that without it being a spoiler so readjust your expectations as to just what you may find out.
After finishing, and re-reading/skimming "In The Woods" I was ready to throw the book, not across the room, but at the judges who awarded French, the Edgar Award, and other awards. My hope was my thrown paperback would bounce off the judges and hit Ms. French in the head and shake some stories with riveting, well crafted endings that delight and surprise the reader, in a good way, out of her! One should read...Harlan Coben's " The Woods", there is a likeness but better, no broken lamps or vases by thrown books after the last page...and no harbored resentment.