Wednesday, 2 December 2015

In the Woods by Tana French reviewed by Karen Bush


I'll come clean here and confess that I didn't set out to buy this - I was browsing in a charity shop and the cover caught my eye. I read a bit and thought I might enjoy it, although a bit outside of my usual genres ... I went home and started reading a bit here and a bit there ...  it's a bit of a slow-burner and took a while to start drawing me in, but once it had, there was no putting it down: I spent a whole afternoon and then the rest of the evening with my nose glued to the pages.
It's a crime novel, a murder mystery, but the real mystery is the background story about events which took place twenty years before, when three children went missing in some woodland. Only one child returned, shoes filled with blood and in such a state of shock that he could remember absolutely nothing of his life before ... now an adult, Rob Ryan is a detective with the Irish Murder squad, and when a child's murder takes place in the same woodland, he and his partner Cassie, are given the case. Only Cassie is aware of his past and his previous links with the area though, and gradually little by little, as they work on the current case, flashes from the past come back to haunt Rob: could the two crimes be related?
The book teases and tantalises all the way through, and all the messy and inconvenient realities of life are very much a part of it: I'm in two minds about the ending however - whilst I'm satisfied with the one concerning the latter-day murder, I'm frustrated and irked by the conclusion of the story thread dealing with the vanished children of two decades earlier: yet if it was cleanly wrapped up, I suspect that I might have been equally irritated. Sometimes you just have to let the readers decide for themselves, even though they might whine and complain about not having everything neatly tidied up. Personally, I reckon it was an escaped crocodile which lives in the river ...
It's what I call a Broadchurch-y sort of novel. If you liked that, you'll probably love this.