On a summer evening in 1984, three best friends; Peter Savage, Jamie Rowan and Adam Ryan, 12 year olds from the neighbourhood of Knocknaree near Dublin went in the woods to play. But Peter and Jamie never came back. Adam was found later with slashes across his T-shirt and his boots filled with blood with no memory of horror that may have happened. Twenty years later, 12 year old Katy Devlin is found dead in the same woods. Investigating the case is detective Rob Ryan, the 12 year old survivor. Every clue takes him back In The Woods, something that he has tried very hard to forget. Are the two events linked? Is there a serial killer lurking in Knocknaree? Will Rob be able to exorcise the ghosts of his past?
Brilliant! Absolutely brilliant!! Now I know why bloggers across the world are head over heels with Tana French. Sure, I had read The Likeness (and that’s why bought In The Woods), so had a fairly good idea of what will be coming. But In The Woods still succeeded in taking me by complete surprise. It has a superb plot backed by solid narration. It is very difficult for me to say what really clicks because there are so many things and I just can’t place my finger on one.
French has an amazing style and she is wonderful in crafting her characters and the setting. Through small details, traits and mannerisms every character emerges with its own distinct personality. The chemistry between Rob and his partner Cassie is particularly fantastic to read. It is like watching a skilled pair of figure skaters performing intricate moves while deftly manoeuvring across the ring. Their colleague Sam O’Neill is chivalrous, dogged and well mannered. And I just loved Cassie. She is clear headed, conscientious and gritty. After The Likeness, I was very eager to know more about her. She tries her best to save Rob from going downhill. Rob who is narrator of the story is torn between his deep desire to know the truth and his equally vehement attempts to shut himself out from the horrors of the past. His every move attracts him back to Knocknaree and leads to a nervous breakdown.
It is difficult to talk about the plot without spilling the beans. So I will stay away from it. The mystery is a complete whodunit. As Rob and Cassie probe the murder of Katy Devlin, they learn that her common middle class family is not what it actually seems. The clues are there in plain sight and yet I overlooked every one of them.
The series is loosely connected and the books can be read independently. French has used a new narrator every time allowing her to experiment with style and giving each book a distinct identity. The next two books of the series Faithful Place (narrated by Frank Mackey, Cassie’s former undercover boss) and Broken Harbour (narrated by Scorcher Kennedy) are already out. But I am eager to read Sam’s story and equally hopeful that French will go back to Ryan’s unfinished story as well.
In The Woods is an incredibly good book and I would like to rate it more than 5 just for its characters and the atmosphere that French creates weaving their psychological upheavals with their surroundings. The spellbinding mystery raises it a notch higher.
Thank you for reading. I appreciate your time.
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My other Dublin Murder Squad series reviews –