Tuesday, June 15, 2010

In The Woods--Tana French

Will someone please read this and talk to me about it? Because it's an awesome thriller with an ambiguous ending, and great characterization. I was so bowled over that I put myself on the list for Tana French's The Likeness and took it out of a different library in the meantime. Yesterday, in fact. I'm almost finished with it (I spent a lot of time on public transit). I'm also on the list for French's third novel in this series, which is coming out in July.

Adam Ryan had a charmed childhood in rural Knocknaree until the day he and his friends Jamie and Peter went into the woods to play as usual, and Jamie and Peter vanished. Adam was found clinging to a tree, his shirt torn and his shoes filled with blood, with no memory of what happened. 20 plus years later, Adam is Detective Rob Ryan with the Dublin Murder Squad and one fateful day he and his partner Cassie Maddox catch an investigation in Knocknaree. A 12 year old local girl, promising dancer Katy Devlin, is found on an altar stone in Rob's old playing ground, raped and with her head bashed in. Knocknaree is being threatened with urban sprawl--the area around the woods is an archeological site under quick excavation as a motorway is going through at the end of the summer. Katy Devlin has a strange family, the archeologists are a funny lot, and the town is crawling with developers. Ryan is unnerved with his investigation into both the current crime and his own past, and isn't able to give up either despite the toll that's taken on him.

So the plot premise is one that would usually have me rolling my eyes and not bothering with the book, but I was so glad that I did. It's a first person narrative by Rob, who is as odd a fish as you would imagine, and warns the reader up front that he's a liar. Rob's only substantive relationship is with Cassie, and the two of them have created the best of his childhood friendship with an overlap of late teens puppyhood, each being the other half of a jokey crack team of investigators. Other than that, he's playing a role--with Peter and Jamie gone and his parents moved from Knocknaree and sending him to boarding school, Rob has been living a life removed from family and himself, donning the costume of a murder detective, living with a roommate he hates, and aside from Cassie, alone.

The writing is spot on and sometimes darkly funny, not only as Rob unravels, but in his observations before and during. This is a story with great mystery/thriller trappings, but it's fundamentally one about how we try to hide the parts of us that are missing and one person's disintegration.

1 comment:

Genevieve said...

I'll add it to my list :). The beginning (3 childhood friends struck by tragedy) reminds me of Mystic River.