Thursday, September 09, 2010

BOOK REVIEW: Tana French's In The Woods

I was completely unaware of Tana French's Edgar-award winning first novel In the Woods until a friend of mine who knows I like mysteries told me I had to read it. I'm very glad of the recommendation. Having read every single one of Ian Rankin's Inspector John Rebus novels I was delighted to find a new mystery author.

The two have some similarities, in that they are both British authors who set their books in their respective countries' biggest city (Rankin in Scotland's Edinburgh and French in Ireland's Dublin). French's books are less centered around a specific main character but instead are more emotionally focussed narratives.

For example, In the Woods is the story of Rob Ryan and Cassie Maddox, two Murder Squad detectives who are investigating the horrific murder of a 12-year-old girl named Kary Devlin. The body was found in the very same woods a then-12-years-old Rob had been found 20-years before covered in blood with no memories while the two best friends he entered the woods never seen again.

In the Woods at its core is a story about the powerful bonds of friendship. The friendship between Rob and Cassie is lovingly depicted, from Rob's perspective as the narrator. The complications of a friendship between a straight man and straight woman are acknowledged and even emphasized in some ways. The other friendship that anchors the novel is the friendship between the young Rob (then called by his middle name Adam) and his two best friends, which is depicted in nostalgic flashbacks.

It becomes clearer and clearer as the novel progresses that the resolution of the recent Devlin murder involves some deep secret buried within the creepy Devlin family but that more importantly, regardless of that resolution, the lack of resolution of the old crime is weighing increasingly heavily upon Rob's psyche. In the end, Rob becomes a quintessential "unreliable narrator"  but there are other, more serious ways that Tana French breaches the contract between reader and murder-mystery author which makes In the Woods an unforgettable and thrilling read.

Author: Tana French.
Title: In the Woods
Length: 429 pages.
Viking Adult.
May 17, 2007.


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