The Lying Woods is a quiet YA mystery surrounding a family scandal. Owen has just been pulled out of his fancy boarding school upon the news that his father has left town, taking with him millions of embezzled funds from the fracking company he runs. The company employed most of Owen’s small town, so when Owen is forced to return home and enroll in the public school, he doesn’t have any friends left there – as far as they’re concerned, Owen’s cushy life was lived on their family’s lost pensions and everyone in town is convinced his mother knows more than she is sharing. Owen stands by his mother, especially so after he learns she has been subjected to anonymous threats. What he doesn’t share with her is that his father reached out to him before he left town, asking him to meet at a diner out of town on Thanksgiving eve. As the days count down and the local detective leans on him for more information, the only place Owen finds refuge is at a local pecan orchard that used to employ his father as a teen. It is in finding the orchard that Owen will find the missing pieces of his family’s puzzle — but can he forgive the man who betrayed his family even knowing the whole complicated story?
I’ve been wanting to read Elston’s debut This is Our Story for awhile but this became available on audio before that did so I decided to give it a whirl. I came to it completely blind but figured it would be the twisty sort of mystery her debut appears to be. I wasn’t totally wrong. This is definitely a mystery with a great reveal that is very well-earned! But it is a more methodical, contemplative mystery than I expected. I liked it, but maybe didn’t love it. It is possible the narration of the audiobook colored my medium opinion.
It is a dually narrated story, predominantly told from Owen’s point of view. I can’t really get into the second narration without spoilers — but it was that half of the story I enjoyed most. Some things that I didn’t love: the female characters were not very interestingly written (both Owen’s mother and his romantic interest are sort of one-note “there for you” types), and I’m not convinced Owen really gets (or faces) his previous life of privilege. He’s definitely written sympathetically and I don’t think any reader would hold his father’s sins above him. Maybe I am just not in the mood for rich boys stories right now.
That being said, it was very well received by critics and you’ll see on Goodreads its got a lot of love there, so it may be a much richer reading experience for you!