by Tana French
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As dusk approaches a small Dublin suburb in the summer of 1984, mothers begin to call their children home. But on this warm evening, three children do not return from the dark and silent woods. When the police arrive, they find only one of the children gripping a tree trunk in terror, wearing blood-filled sneakers, and unable to recall a single detail of the previous hours.
Twenty years later, the found boy, Rob Ryan, is a detective on the Dublin Murder Squad and keeps his past a secret. But when a twelve-year-old girl is found murdered in the same woods, he and Detective Cassie Maddox—his partner and closest friend—find themselves investigating a case chillingly similar to the previous unsolved mystery. Now, with only snippets of long-buried memories to guide him, Ryan has the chance to uncover both the mystery of the case before him and that of his own shadowy past.
Richly atmospheric and stunning in its complexity, In the Woods is utterly convincing and surprising to the end.
“Not any more. In ways too dark and crucial to be called metaphorical, I never left that wood.”
I know that I ought to gather my thoughts to organize them or whatever I usually do before writing a review, especially when the last page let me shell-shocked as In the Woods did. But I can’t. I’m leaving tomorrow and I’m not one for writing reviews weeks after having read the damn book. I’m actually in awe of people who manage to do just that. I think that it says something about me : in the end, I’m an emotional reader, and I’ll always hold to the bewilderment and wonder I feel when fictional stories get to me in such a strong level.
And I just began too many sentences with I. Ugh. Bear with me, would you?
In the Woods affected me in a way that I didn’t expect, slowly enveloping me in its sickeningly sweet lure. Little by little, I’ve been rocked by a false sense of safety, by the discreet and uncertain laughs, proofs of Rob and Cassie’s complicity. Of course I saw the warnings, the insights, yet I chose to ignore the bad taste in my mouth, the inexorable growth of my doubts and then the pang of betrayal and sadness. God, this book let me so fucking sad. Hollowed. There’s nothing, really, that I could say to convince you to give it a chance, and many reviewers did it before me and with much more eloquence.
So I’ll only say this : rarely did I feel that the character’s personality – whether they’re likeable or not – was so besides the point as when reading this book. Is Rob a jerk? Maybe, but I don’t care, he’s real, all of them are real to me. I care so much, og my god, do I care for him still. Did I guess some clues before he did? Yes, actually, I did, but again, it changes nothing to the way I feel right now, to the sheer awe still palpable in me when I’m writing these (clumsy) words. View Spoiler »Do I feel some kind of bond with him, because in my early 20s I’ve come across a girl (a woman, really) who acted the same way as Rosalyn and that I fell for it? Yes, definitely. « Hide Spoiler[Do I feel some kind of bond with him, because in my early 20s I’ve come across a girl (a woman, really) who acted the same way as Rosalyn and that I fell for it? Yes, definitely. (hide spoiler)]
I am frustrated, does that show? I’m just so sick of writing that, it’s not perfect but – god, I’m so fed up with that sentence and I write it way too often. Nothing’s perfect. Life is far from perfect (or everybody would look at populists and say, What The Hell, do I look like an idiot to you?!). Tana French pictures the unfairness and imperfection of it all perfectly. It’s enough for me. Of course it’s enough.
PS. One day later and I’m still dazzled and yeah, so very much sad. It will linger, I just know it.