The Book Report: ‘In the Woods,’ by Tana French


Anne Yoskoski, Life Editor

In rural Ireland, Detective Rob Ryan is investigating a murder in his hometown. The only problem? This town already has a history drenched in violence and mystery.

Twenty years ago, three children went to play in the woods, but only one came back. The boy was found clinging to a tree trunk, shoes filled with blood and unable to remember anything about the 24-hour period before he was found. Detective Ryan is, in fact, that boy, living under a different name to escape his past. The only person who knows of his connection to this town is his partner, Cassie Maddox.

The question of whether or not this murder he’s currently investigating is connected with the disappearance of his friends two decades earlier is one that haunts the book, making the interactions that Detective Ryan has with the other town members nail biting, as the reader waits to see if anyone will know who he really is.

Two crimes separated by so many years in single novel would normally make for a complex reading, but here they blend in such a way that the reader really only has to follow one investigation. As a fan of the hard-boiled detective novel, this novel surprised me. Part mystery and part psychological thriller, the reader is transported to Ireland and into the mind of Detective Ryan, essentially the mind of the little boy he was and the snippets of his past he can recall.

For a first novel, this book is amazing. There are parts of it that become slow or dry, but then something crazy and unexpected will happen and the reader is taken right back into the story with such force that one can’t help but be lost in it. The interactions between Cassie and Rob are friendly, although most readers will want to push for a romantic angle. The lack of romance bolsters the detail-oriented, very well-plotted storyline, leaving nothing but the facts and the mystery in the reader’s mind.