Friday, September 24, 2010

In the Woods - Tana French


Tana French is a goddess. Not just any goddess, but the Goddess of Mystery. That fact became clear to me early in my audio experience with The Likeness, which redefined the meaning of the clever mystery, deep characterization, and living a story. Never mind that I read The Likeness out of order. Normally that would annoy me, but French writes her sequels so that you can easily pick up any of her three novels without worrying you missed out on something. This is what it is all about people...a mystery that sets your mind afire.

Twelve year-old Adam Ryan and his two best friends wander out in the woods near their neighborhood to play, but only Adam comes back, catatonic and covered in blood. The other two children are never found, and Adam has never remembered what happened. Twenty years later, Adam has changed his name to Rob, and has become a police officer. With the assistance of Cassie Maddox (our protagonist from The Likeness), Rob is assigned to a case involving a twelve-year-old girl murdered in the same woods from his youth. Who would wish harm on the innocent ballet prodigy, and does it have any connection to the disappearance of Ryan's friends?

I can give you some assurances when it comes to French's stories. They are seriously multi-dimensional. Like every proper mystery, this one has a tragic murder surrounded by suspicious characters. There are the archaeologists that discovered the dead girl within their dig. There is the girl's family who are all slightly "off". A stranger in a track suit seen lurking around the neighborhood. The politicians who want to build a highway through the woods and are willing to destroy (kill?) anyone who gets in their way. All have a complicated story, all have dirty secrets.

But you are getting a whole lot more for your literary dollar here. French also deftly builds the delightful relationship between Ryan and Maddox. The chemistry was incredible...two people who knew each other's demons, sparred like brother and sister, and finished each other's sentences. I can't recall too many other duos that clicked into place quite as well as these two. Of course, my dirty-minded friends, we can guess exactly what path all of this is going to travel.

Another facet of the story is Ryan's debilitating journey into the past. As he pokes around in the shadows of his mind, looking at evidence two decades old, and having chilling flashbacks, the trauma of his youth threatens to destroy him and his career. In so many ways, French's characters are in the woods. It is a perfect analogy.

This mystery is riveting from the beginning to the end. My mind never once strayed, the pacing was spot on, I did not want it to end. I've read many reviews that have been less than favorable about the ending of the book, however. (My mom and a friend of mine share this attitude.) If you want a neat resolution, with answers to every question, you will not find it here. The answers you do receive may be unsettling. I have no issue with this. Life is messy, and when I read a mystery that ignores this fact, and wraps it all up like a Scooby Doo installment, I get testy.

Instead, I turned the last page of this book wanting more. So I turned to the audio of Faithful Place. Stay tuned for more drooling.

5 out of 5 stars




20 comments:

JoAnn said...

I've seen complaints about the ending, but I like the way you address that. Sounds like a must listen to me!!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Obviously because you give it a five I have to read it But you *know* I'll be emailing you to discuss the ending when I do! :--)

Mystica said...

Second review I read today which was so positive. Have to read it.

Melody said...

I loved this book! Actually I quite liked the ending; I think it's very nicely done! I look forward to your review on Faithful Place!

The Bumbles said...

Ugh - I think I am the only person in the world who hated this book. I was very frustrated by her complete abandonment of her awesome initial plot thread. And I didn't find the way Rob's character reacted in the latter half of the book to be believable. I am glad that you enjoyed it so much though. It is so much fun when you find a page turner that gets the adrenaline pulsing!

Michele at Reader's Respite said...

I love that woman, truly. She is the best new mystery writer out there and I can't wait to hear what you think about Faithful Place. I fell a tad in love with Frank.

raych said...

AAAIEEEE I HAVE A FAITHFUL PLACE OUT FROM THE LIBRARY RIGHT NOW! I just picked it up yesterday and I've been eyeing it lasciviously ever since.

Julie P. said...

I have a few of Tana French's books and I keep meaning to get to them. If this doesn't light a fire under me...

Kathleen said...

You know this one is right up my alley and on my shelf, just waiting to be read!

Michelle said...

I am so glad you said that about the ending! I, for one, loved it because I think it fit, but so many people are left hating the book, or at least the ending. I haven't yet picked up The Likeness but you may have convinced me to do so. Great review!

Amy said...

I admit I didn't read all of this post because I want to read the book & prefer not to know too much going in! But I'm thrilled to read how much you enjoyed the book. I appreciate your discussion about the ending, too and completely agree. I can name several other authors to read if you want a nice package tied with a bow at the ending (several aren't very good writers! lol).

I cannot wait to experience Tana French's books!
~ Amy

Stephanie said...

I think the author has gotten better with each book and I absolutely love her writing. Glad to hear that you enjoyed In the Woods too!

Carrie K. said...

Loved this - though was disappointed in the ending. Her writing is brilliant, though, and I loved The Likeness even more. Just ordered Faithful Place. :)

Zibilee said...

These books have been recommended to me many, many times. I have bought a copy of this book recently, and I am really looking forward to it. Me and mysteries don't always get along, but I think these books will be different. I am so glad that you are loving them and I will have to check back in after I have read them! Fantabulous review!

irisonbooks said...

I always feel hesitant to comment on posts about mysteries, because I'm no good with them. Why? They're simply too scary. And a well written one is bound to keep me from sleeping for a few nights. Unfortunately, because this does sound like one of those books I have to read.

Jenners said...

Love your review! And I felt the same way about the ending ... it was deliciously unresolved and that isn't everyone's cup of tea. I'm so looking forward to reading the rest of her books.

S. Krishna said...

Great review. I didn't love the unresolved ending right after I read it, but now that I reflect I don't mind it as much. I'm glad you enjoyed this book!

Ti said...

I loved this book when I read it but for some reason, I've never been compelled to pick-up the other books.

Melissa M said...

I really need to pick this one up again. I tried it quite a while ago, and only made it halfway through even though I expected to love it.

Alice Teh said...

I think another friend of mine Oregon had just finished the book and she loved it too. She was telling me you must, must, must read Tana French. OK. And now after reading your review, there's no escape.