Summary: Dublin 1984 dusk, three children vanish in the woods. One, Rob Ryan, grips a tree trunk in terror, unable to recall any detail of previous hours. Twenty years later, the detective on the Dublin Murder Squad keeps his past a secret. But when a girl 12 is killed in the same woods, Rob and Detective Cassie Maddox — partner and best pal – investigate present and past.
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Source: I purchased a paperback
In the Woods was wonderfully written, incredibly captivating, and I enjoyed the book quite a bit. I loved how descriptive and introspective it was and how it wasn’t your typical whodunnit crime novel that I hate. The detectives were flawed and the case was intriguing.
However, if I judge the book solely on the synopsis and my expectations, I closed the book feeling let down, mislead, and angry. It’s hard to describe why without giving massive spoilers away, but the expectation that the complication of the case for Detective Ryan would play some major roles was definitely there and the book did not follow through with any connection and I felt like I was taken down roads that never lead anywhere. It was incredibly frustrating. Also, I went into the book with the idea that Cassie and Rob worked very well together and did their jobs well together. To have that not be how it played out in the end was also incredibly frustrating, as I think most of us go into detective novels with a reasonable expectation that the detectives can handle, with whatever troubles and wrenches thrown into their psyche, most situations fairly well.
If I ignore my expectations and create a new synopsis in my head based on what I just read, In the Woods is brilliant and amazing. It was dark, it showed the frustrating ways that a case can take detectives down a lot of roads, many of which waste time and resources, only to backtrack and end up going down 4 more other roads that may lead to nothing as well. Detective Ryan, if looked at as a massively flawed individual, gave a wonderful narrative as we got to watch him spiral out of the control. In many ways, he was as screwed up as Detective Archie from the Gretchen Lowell series by Chelsea Cain. If the link to Detective Ryan’s past serves only to let the reader know just how much this case will affect his psyche, than the book was absolutely stunning.
So, I’m torn between what to rate it. It was depressing, terrible, and while the case was solved, I felt like everything else fell apart in my hands and I was left with a giant mess. The fact that I feel that way shows just how much I liked and connected with the characters and cared.. but it was also so frustrating that I don’t even know if I can continue the series. I usually love screwed up endings, but I can honestly say that I was expecting the book to go a certain way and it just.. didn’t.
I recommend reading In the Woods because Tana French is not an author you want to overlook. She wrote a great book with so many dark complications and she delved deep into the different characters. I will probably continue the series eventually, but I need to take a break and read something that isn’t incredibly broken and depressing.