In the 1980’s, three best friends, all twelve-years-old, go into the woods adjacent to their Dublin neighborhood. Two are never to be found again.

The third, Adam Ryan, returns covered in blood, and in a state of shock. What happened to the two missing children? No one knows.

Twenty years later, the body of another twelve-year-old is found, in the exact same woods. The girl is found lying on top of an altar stone, in the middle of an active archeological dig. No one knows what happened to this girl, so detectives Rob Ryan and Cassie Mattox are investigating.

Rob has a secret, that only his partner Cassie knows. He is actually Adam Ryan, the boy who emerged from the woods all those years ago. The story lines in In the Woods branch off and intertwine, separate, and come back together again in unexpected places. It’s a forest of details.

Ryan is trying to remember just what happened in the woods when he was twelve, while working on this new case at the same time. In the process, he is slowly losing his mind. Cassie and Ryan are trying to keep their superiors from discovering exactly who Ryan really is, to avoid getting thrown off the new case. There is a deep friendship developing between Cassie and Ryan, and for much of the book, things kind of hang in the air, waiting to bloom or wither.

The body turns out to be Katy Devlin, a local “celebrity”, known because she is an amazing ballet dancer, who was about to attend a specialized school for dance. Many of the details about the way her body was found are questionable, making the case that much tougher to solve.

Katy’s father is involved in a group that is trying to prevent the local government from putting a roadway through the woods, directly over where the archeological site sits on. There is a lot of tension between those who want the roadway, and those who are opposed to it, and this makes everything more complex.  Every new lead, each new clue only makes things more tangled. I had no idea what was coming next, or what to believe, until the very end.

Lurking beneath all of this, is something dark, unnamed, and sinister. Is there something supernatural in the woods, or is it just a figment of the imagination of the people who live near it? Or, is it just in Ryan’s mind?

I really enjoyed the way French writes. She paints a picture of the perfect summer day at the beginning, which completely drew me in. She describes everything in the book so well, from the way the sky and the woods looked, to how the cigarettes so many of the characters smoked smelled, to how hot or cold the temperature in the rooms was.

I could almost hear the difference between Ryan’s British private school accent, and everyone else’s variety of Irish brogue. You feel like you are there, sitting on Ryan’s shoulder, living it all right along with him. Very compelling.

This book review of In the Woods – by Tana French is a post written by Jen Thorpe on Book of Jen and is not allowed to be copied to other sites.

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