==Synopsis of the book:==
In the summer of 1984 three 12 year old friends go out as usual into the woods in the small town of Knocknaree in County Dublin. However they fail to return and only after several days searching do the Police find one boy Adam Robert Ryan very traumatised. He is unable to remember anything that has happened but is in a terrible confused state and looks like he has been living rough for months. He is the lucky one however as his friends Jamie and Peter are not found.
More than twenty years have passed and Adam Robert Ryan is now in his early thirties and a Detective in the murder squad. He has changed his name to Robert Ryan and following the awful events he has never remembered from all those years ago what really did happen. Soon after the accident his parents sent him away to boarding school in England and they too moved away from County Dublin. So that now he has returned no one knows it was him who survived while his friends never returned from the wood.
Detective Ryan and his partner Cassie Maddox are now called upon to return to those woods. As a little girl's body is discovered on some sacred rocks that if legend has it correctly where sacrifices where made hundreds of years before. The site is now very busy with Archaeologists looking for old finds from previous settlements, who are working frantically before the site is crushed under a new Motorway development. Ryan and Maddox must try and find our what happened to this girl, with Ryan already wondering if it is linked to what happened all those years ago in the same wood to his friends.
==My thoughts on this novel:==
I thought this was an excellent Detective novel and one which really had been enthralled all the way through it. It was a much longer and more in depth story than I have read in a while and one that took me a week to get through, but one I really enjoyed and one that I was somewhat disappointed that it ever had to end.
This is not my first experience of Tana French's work as some time ago I read 'Faithful Place' her third novel. I thought this was a very good Detective story too, so I was keen to try something different from her and see how it compared. With 'In the Woods' being her début novel and one which has been very highly acclaimed and won numerous awards for an author's first published works. And I have to say having read the book I am in total agreement this is a wonderful piece of fiction.
I love a good murder mystery but these days I quite often find the stories are too short and lacking in any real suspense. With writers not using the kind of depth that really challenges readers into wondering what will happen next and which way will the story turn next. This story for me had practically everything that you could want in a mystery and the depth was breath taking in terms of the story and the characters within it.
To start with I was impressed with the tittle, simple but leaving a lot open to the reader to decide what it could be about. That and the mysterious looking picture on the front cover made me want to flip the book over and check out the summary on the back. This was three paragraphs long and set the scene perfectly and was full of detail about what had happened twenty years before in the woods and what had just happened. To me it sounded very interesting and I felt with some confidence this was going to be something I would enjoy.
Amazingly enough even the compliments from magazines and papers where actually about this book too!! It is a constant gripe of mine that these in many other books are about the authors work in general and not about the book you are about to read. But then I suppose it couldn't be like that in this case because it was Tana French's first book!!
Although I must admit I did not like everything about this book. It begins with a prologue that was about three pages long that had very little to do with the story itself. I always think a good prologue sets the book up but this for me was irrelevant and added no value to the story. I must admit once I had to read it twice and still barely saw the relevance it had to the real story or the one I had picked up from the summary on the back cover.
It was only when chapter one started that the story began and I started to relax and enjoy it. For me it was quite slow going to start with as the author was a considerable pains to fill the reader in on a lot of the detail about Detective Ryan's life. It was very useful background and helped me understand him better helped me build some empathy with him. As I found like him I wanted to now what happened to his two friends all those years ago.
It was when the investigation began in earnest into the death of the little girl that I really become involved in the story. There was so much depth and detail to enjoy and you get the sense it was these two Detectives Ryan and Maddox against the world. I found I really enjoyed their close relationship as they where such contrasting characters, but somehow as in this case opposites attract and work well together.
What was so enjoyable for me was this in many ways was quite a slow painstaking investigation with lots needed to be done and gone into. The author to compensate for this displayed the main characters in their own homes relaxing, but also at the same time sharing thoughts and ideas about the case they where working on. This really allowed you to see everything the considered but at the same time in a different environment. I found this made the investigation more realistic as these characters found it hard to unwind and not to talk shop, plus it also allowed me to see deeper into their personalities.
I found there was so much to admire about the quality of Tana French's writing. Not only does she set the scene and explain in great detail it so that you feel you are there, but she gives you a real understand of what the lead character feels about it. You knew Detective Ryan because of his involvement in the past should not get involved in this new murder and trying to see if there where similarities between the two cases, but you knew like him the answer was out there somewhere and it needed to be resolved.
What really impressed me also as the story developed was some of the excellent totally unexpected twists, changes of direction and surprises the story displayed. Yes you expect a few clever twists in any mystery but you where also getting them in the personal lives on the key Detectives, but because the story was so strong this did not in my opinion detract from it, it merely enhanced it. I thought but creating these surprises and changes of direction the author displayed a really good understanding of what an investigation of this importance is like with all the avenues that must be explored many of which are totally a waste of time.
Although I think what impressed me most was the suspense the author was able to create and maintain the whole way through the story. This was done in part by giving the reader at selected points in the story details of Detective Ryan remembering facts from his childhood and then at others him remembering things he had blanked out from that day, but now as he was back in the woods he suddenly remembered. It left you always wondering if he would remember exactly what did happen to him. And I found even at the end of the story there was suspense and I feeling that you still where not sure what would happen next in the story to Ryan.
I found the pace of the story to be about right. It was quite slow to start with but as the investigation progressed it increased and this added to the excitement. I found there was always something to think about and consider especially as new information was always coming into it and I knew that what had happened previously to expect the unexpected and I was never disappointed. As I found I was way off in my answers to this story and it never went the way I expected both in the murder and personal scenarios.
For me there was a real honesty and understanding in this author's writing about the trials and tribulations about Police work, relationships and what it was like growing up in a small town in Ireland in the 1980's as Ryan had done. And it was in part because of this quality that the story seemed real and in some ways shocking too, but it was also because the author had such a well thought out story.
Rob Ryan was the main character in the story and it was written from his view point. I thought he was very skilfully written for and what I really liked was he was more than capable of the unexpected. And while I could empathise with him on many things in some ways he really acted differently to what I expected, which in many ways endeared him to me. I really enjoyed his close bond and understanding with Cassie and how because they where so close they had little signals and signs that would make them laugh, while all those around them would wonder what on earth they where on. While it is true I liked Ryan it was Cassie who always impressed me most and she was the one who had hidden depths and a character that was so different from the norm as to be enchanting.
For me this story had everything and it is certainly one of the best books I have read in the past few years. Tana French has so far only written three novels so I will now greedily go and search out the other one which I haven't read in the hope it will be on par with this wonderful book.
I thought this was a very high quality Detective story. It was one I enjoyed almost from the start if you forget the prologue anyway till the very last page. Tana French in my opinion is an excellent writer there is so much thought and depth put into her work it leaves me speechless, well nearly. This is a book I recommend very highly.
Price: 3.65 new at Amazon
Year Published: 2007
More about the author: www.tanafrench.com
Thanks for reading my review.
This review is published under my user name on both Ciao and Dooyoo.
© CPTDANIELS March 2012.
My daughter who is a member of a book swapping site, recently gave me this to read prior to reading it herself. She thought I may like it as I am a big Harlan Coben fan and she thought the plot sounded similar to one of his novels 'The Woods'.
I had not heard of the author Tana Woods prior to reading this book, but she has written a couple of other novels. 'In The Woods' being her first. Tana French lives in Ireland and this novel was published in 2007.
'Murder brings back memories...'
Rob Ryan was 12 years old, when playing in the woods near his home with his two friends one day, something terrible happened.
Rob has suffered memory loss since that fateful day, and all he knows is that he entered the woods with his friends, but only he came back out.
Twenty years on, Rob is now a detective in the Dublin police force. He still has no recollection of what happened in the woods that day, and his friends Peter and Germaine have never been found.
He has changed his name to Adam and no one knows about his past.
Then a little girl's body is found in the woods and Rob is drawn back into the past. For him and his partner, DI Cassie Maddox, every lead comes with sinister undercurrents. The victim's family are hiding some secrets of their own, and Rob's own private enquiries are taking their toll on his mind. Every trail seems to lead back to the woods.
In The Woods is quite a thick book of nearly 600 pages, and I settled down for a good read. In its favour is it is very well written and draws you in from the first page, which is what I like to happen when starting to read a book.
However, about half way through the book I began to realise that not an awful lot was happening. I kept reading, wanting to find out what happened in the woods all those years back, and became aware that I was thinking to myself that maybe the next page, something would happen and things would begin to unravel, but nothing did.
There seemed to be two plots, a modern day murder and the incident 20 years ago and I was sure they would tie-in together somewhere so kept reading.
Two thirds through the book and still nothing of any great significance had happened. Things were mentioned but not followed up, and I found myself beginning to wonder where it was all going to lead and why the author was mentioning certain things but then not going anywhere with them. Parts of the book seemed to be unnecessary filler.
It was clear that the discovery of the body had drawn Rob back into the woods, but it became apparent that I was never going to find out what happened to him 20 years earlier.
I kept reading as I had stuck with it for two thirds of the book, and as I mentioned earlier, it is well written and the charcters well developed. And even though I found myself not caring about the main character of Rob/Adam very much, there is something intriguing about him and I wanted to know what happened in the woods. His relationship with Cassie is interesting and again well written, and there are also a few spooky moments in the woods, which ensured I kept reading and believing something scary and terrible would be revealed soon.
In her favour, Tana French has a talent for writing and has the capability to write a brilliant thriller without a doubt. In The Woods, in my opinion, is not it.
Whilst French is very perceptive and can also inject both suspense and humour into her writing, the plot is let down by the lack of a satisfactory conclusion.
I'd experienced all the usual feelings when reading a good thriller, suspecting one person then another, and trying to guess the ending. The question is, how can you guess the ending when there isn't one?
Maybe some think it is very cleverly written and designed to make you think for yourself. However, if I pick up a book with as interesting a back cover as this, then I want to find out what happened and why.
Much of the book is taken up with Rob's childhood experience and also the threat of something sinister in the woods. As Rob himself wants answers too, you feel sure all will be revealed.
The feeling I was left with by the end of the book was one of frustration.
What could have been a great thriller for me was a big let down. Nearly 600 pages and no conlcusion? You begin the book wondering what happened in the woods 20 years earlier, and you end the book in exactly the same position!
This is not a boring book to read, otherwise I could not have stuck with it all the way through, and this fact is the major reason you are left feeling so frustrated.
It could have been brilliant!