Saturday, July 25, 2009

Book Review: In The Woods by Tana French

In The Woods, Tana French (2007)(***1/2). When I picked up this mystery/thriller for Julie's birthday, I had never heard of it and knew nothing about it, but apparently everyone is reading it these days because suddenly it's everywhere. The story is told by the possibly unreliable narrator Adam "Rob" Ryan, a Dublin murder detective who, along with his partner and best friend Cassie, is assigned to investigate the murder of 12-year-old Katy in the same Dublin suburb where Rob grew up. Rob has not returned to his home town since he left for boarding school at about Katy's age, after a horrifying experience in the woods near his home that left him bloody and with amnesia, and his two best friends vanished and presumed dead. The unsolved mystery of his friends' disappearance and Katy's murder become intertwined, at least in Rob's rapidly deteriorating mind. Part psychological thriller, part police procedural, this mystery is cast with several compelling and rich characters, though not all of them, including the narrator, are entirely likable. For the first third or so, I thought I had hit the jackpot with In The Woods, maybe even The Best Mystery Ever. However, for reasons that would mostly spoil the book if you intend to read it (and it seems to be the thing to do this summer!), I was pretty darn disappointed by the end. In a nutshell, there were some significant issues left unresolved, and while I don't always have to have every loose end tied up, even in a summer-fling-of-a-mystery, it seemed to me that the promise of resolution had been dangled pretty blatantly, and that not actually following through served no good purpose. Also, there were parts of the story that got unnecessarily long. But still and all, if you like mysteries, I think this one is worth reading, and Julie says the sequel, narrated by Rob's partner Cassie, is even more compelling and definitely more satisfying.

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