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Book Review: In The Woods

Tana French

WARNING: This review contains spoilers!!

I read In the Woods because it was chosen as a book club book. I had high hopes for it, as it was an Edgar Award finalist. Indeed, the book had a lot of potential, but I very disappointed in it.


The Story: In The Woods consists of two parallel mysteries, both centered around Detective Rob Ryan. The first was when he was a young boy – Ryan was found with bloody shoes, clutching a tree. He had no recollection of what happened to the two friends he was with; they simply disappeared.

Now fast-forward 20 years. Ryan is assigned as the detective of a present-day murder, back in his home town. Working the case brings back memories for the detective, enough memories to leave him unsettled, but he never remembers what happened the day his friends disappeared.

Praise: The first thing I was struck with when reading In The Woods was that it is really beautifully written. The descriptions are outstanding. It’s rare that I find a mystery that uses such imagery.

As the book progressed, I also grew very attached to the two plot-lines, very curious to find out what happened to Ryan as a child and whether (and how) the two mysteries would come together.

However… this never happened. The mystery of Ryan’s childhood was never solved. While I realize that not every book can / should wrap up everything, I felt like I put up with Ryan’s annoying personality (he’s whiny and na├»ve) to find out what happened. Instead, one of the two mysteries is left unsolved, and Ryan ends up going backwards in life – alone, no friends, and actually went backward in his career. Clearly Ryan was having a hard time, given the circumstances, but he was just not likable. As much as I wanted to, I couldn’t feel sympathetic for him.

To Sum Up: What could have been a great book ended up being just so-so. It had a lot of potential but I was just disappointed and irritated at the end of it.

But what did you think?

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