Friday, January 15, 2010
In The Woods by Tana French
Three children leave their small Dublin neighborhood to play in the surrounding woods. Hours later, their mother's calls go unanswered. 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, Detective Rob Ryan-the found boy, who has kept his past a secret-and his partner Cassie Maddox investigate the murder of a twelve-year-old girl in the same woods. 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.
I love a good mystery, as a matter of fact I can get enough of them lately, but I'm normally not a big fan of police procedurals. I would rather read about a brilliant amateur detective who uses his brain and guile to solve the murder, over the police doing their job. With that being said between all the positive review I've read about this particular book and the absolutely gorgeous cover I was leaning in the direction of reading this one, so when Michelle of red headed book child ran a contest a few months ago to win a copy, I signed up and luckily I won.
It's been laying around since then waiting to be picked up but since it was still a police procedural, I wasn't in a hurry to read it. Well I finally picked it up last week and I'm trying to remember why I didn't read it earlier. This was way more than a typical novel about the police running around trying to crack the case, this was a brilliantly written account of what happens in the mind of someone who went through hell as a child and once again has to start thinking of those events.
This was about the characters for me more than the overall plot line, though I did enjoy the story on it's own merits. Reading the psychological breakdown of Detective Ryan, who is the one telling us the story, was heartbreaking. He had managed to, if not put the past behind him, at least shove it away so it didn't rule his life. When this case lands on his desk, his world slowly starts to fall apart. The reader really doesn't get the full sense of the breakdown until later in the book when Ryan starts being a little more honest with the reader about his behavior and actions. It eventually destroys the relationship he has with his partner, Cassie Maddox, and seriously damages his career. In the end he solves the murder of the young girl, but still has no clue about the events that happened twenty years earlier, the lack of closure is horrible for the character but satisfying to me as a reader. You are left hoping that even if Ryan never knows what happened to him that he will at least be able to finally put those events behind him and start living his life, which he has never truly done.
Cassie is a brilliantly written character and I can't wait to read The Likeness, the authors second novel which has Cassie as the main character. In this book she comes across as a complex, vulnerable woman who has had to make her way in a world that is dominated by men. You can't really get a clear picture of her because everything we know is told through Ryan's eyes, but what I did discover I liked and I'm ready to read more.
One last comment about a character and then I will get this wrapped up. I read a lot of mystery novels and for the most part the villain, murderer, criminal, etc. come across as somone who does bad things for reasons of their own, but aren't truly evil. This is one of the few books, in my opinion, that does have a selfish, evil villain. The best part is they get away with it, not because the police didn't find out who was behind it, but because the villain manipulated the situation so well that they can't legally prove it. Now I don't want you to think that the person who actually did the killing gets away with it, because they don't. The person who did get away with it is the one who orchestrated the whole thing. I tend to like movies, books that don't have clean happy endings, because life doesn't always have happy endings. Sometimes the bad guy wins.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to read a complex, psychological thriller with a good dose of police work thrown in.
This will count towards the Thriller & Suspense Reading Challenge 2010 hosted by Carolyn of Book Chick City.