"The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." — Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

Friday, February 4, 2011

In the Woods by Tana French

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Summary: An Irish detective is assigned to investigate the murder of a young girl, right in the same neighborhood where his friends disappeared 20 years ago.

I went to bed with this book and got kicked out of bed for keeping the light on too long! I couldn't stop reading once Detectives Ryan and Maddox hone in on the killer.

In August of 1984, in a suburb of Dublin, three kids run off to play in the woods surrounding their neighborhood.  When the kids don't return, the entire neighborhood searches for the missing kids, turning up only one of the three kids. The other two kids are still missing today. Their bodies were never found, nor was any crime scene, yet the one child found had blood-soaked feet.

The found boy, Rob Ryan, moved away and became a detective in Dublin's Murder Squad. He's inclined to be a loner, but his partner Cassie Maddox is his best friend.

Twenty years later, a young girl's body is found at the edge of the woods where Rob's friends disappeared. Like the now murdered Katy, his missing friend Jamie was also about to be sent away to school. Both Jamie and Katy were twelve years old. Is this new murder connected to his friends' old unsolved disappearance?
The wood was gay and sparkly in the sunlight, all birdsong and flirting leaves; I could feel the rows upon rows of identical, trim, innocuous houses ranged behind me. This fucking place, I almost said, but I didn't. 
A team of investigators turns up no sexual predators, either from then or now, no viable suspects, but plenty of concern about young Katy's life. Katy was raped, but with an object. Her family seems distant and distracted, and there's political corruption, pressure to solve the case and no leads.

Rob starts to go a little crazy (staying up too late and drinking too much) about this case, bringing him nightmares about the unsolved mystery of his life, but Cassie covers for him extremely well. There are no progress made in this case, and Rob has already resigned himself to be haunted by another case involving the woods. Is there a wild animal? Is there a neighborhood murderer, who killed as a teen and is now a father? Two separate mysteries?

Frustrated beyond measure, and feeling like he's messing up his life every day, Rob decides to spend the night in the wood.
Knocknaree wood was the real thing, and it was more intricate and more secretive than I had remembered. It had its own order, its own fierce battles and alliances. 
His night in the woods actually creates a break in the case, as it clears his mind completely. This clue starts an amazing path of discovery and I stayed awake once they had a suspect in custody. I never suspected! The Irish criminal and legal system is different from America's too, which enhanced the story for me too. A lushly, descriptively-written novel, I was sucked in by the first chapter and can't wait to read more by this author. The pacing was just perfect, with hints of dread and mystery being revealed along the way. It's up there with my first John Lescroast novel, Guilt.

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