I’ve seen reviews of In the Woods (2007) by Tana French, and they’ve pretty much all been positive, so I’ve had it on my to-read list for a while. When I finally got around to reading it, I really had no idea what to expect. The title is so similar to the musical Into the Woods, that I was half expecting a weird fairy tale. Yeah, not so much.
Rob Ryan and Cassie Maddox are the unlikely, but very effective, partners on the Dublin Murder Squad. When a 12-year-old girl, Katy Devlin, is murdered and left on an altar at an excavation site, Rob and Cassie are assigned the case. What their boss doesn’t know is that Rob was a survivor of a chilling crime that occurred in the same place, thirty years earlier. Rob and his two best friends had run out into the nearby woods to play. When they didn’t show up after dusk, a search party was started. Rob was found, terrified and clinging to a tree, his shoes soaked in blood, and with scratches down his back. His friends were never found.
It is unclear whether the murder of Katy is related to the trauma that Rob still can’t remember, but there is no question that there is a personal stake in this for Rob. Cassie and Rob get into the investigation like the practiced experts they are: questioning witnesses, digging into the family, and checking out leads. Seeing Cassie and Rob work together at their best was probably one of my favorite parts of this book. They know their job, and they know each other so well. They improvise and play off one another to perfection. They are also incredibly loyal and protective of each other. Cassie backs Rob when he wants to continue the investigation despite his personal interest.
But this book is a lot darker than just a creepy crime thriller. The past is haunting Rob and even as they hunt the killer, he is struggling. It stresses the relationship between Rob and Cassie and really made the book much less fun to read.
I was impressed by this book. There is the mystery and investigation of Katy Devlin, the mystery of what happened in the woods to Rob and his friends, the incredibly well-developed characters of Rob and Cassie, and how their relationship changes throughout the book. Finally, there is the psychological toll that this case takes on both Rob and Cassie. There is a lot going on and French manages to balance it all. It was also very dark and creepy. In fact, I don’t think I can use the word ‘creepy’ enough in this review. It all creeped me out. I felt disturbed when I finished reading this book.
I’m not sure if I will immediately delve into the rest of the Dublin Murder Squad books quite yet. I’m not sure if I want to go through all that again so soon. Are they worth it?
Find all of my reviews on my blog.