In the Woods by Tana French

I have had In the Woods by Tana French on loan from the library since last November – fortunately I was able to keep renewing it, until I got round to reading it. It’s Tana French’s debut novel first published in 2007.

When I began reading I thought this was going to be a really great book. It has all the elements I like – a current murder mystery to solve and a cold case from 20 years earlier, well drawn characters and a writing style that contains enough description to visualise the action easily. It’s set in Ireland mainly around an archaeological dig of a site prior to the construction of a motorway. Most of the wood that covered the land had already been cleared, but a small section remains. A little girl’s body is discovered on the site. Is her death connected to the disappearance of two twelve year-olds 20 years earlier? And it just so happens that the detective, Rob Ryan,  investigating the current murder was the third child who was involved in the disappearance – except he came back and has no memory of what had happened.

I was immediately drawn into the book, enjoying the mystery and wondering how long Ryan can keep his identity hidden and whether he will remember what happened. However, as the story progresses, the descriptive passages get longer and more complicated as the characters’ back stories are revealed, in particular the dead girl’s family and other peripheral characters. And whilst I still think this is a good book, it isn’t a great one. I like the psychological elements and the twists and turns, although I think some of them were predictable. I’ve seen criticism about the way the book ends, but I didn’t find that disappointing at all, in fact I think that is the only credible way that it could end. And I liked it well enough to look out for French’s second book – The Likeness.

11 thoughts on “In the Woods by Tana French

  1. I rather liked this one and the ending which I know some did not. I started book two but sadly could not get into it at all and dnf. Another of those series where I’ve only read one or two and even though I liked them, it’s enough.


  2. I too expected a little more from this one, and I agree while not a great book, a good one. I actually didn’t really like the main character by the end. I have the likeness lined up for the Ireland Challenge I challenge myself to do in March each year.


  3. I’ve heard so much praise for Tana French – although I think it was mostly directed at Broken Harbour. I have to start reading her at some point, but perhaps not start with the first one, by the sounds of it.


  4. Margaret – I thought this was a good one too, ‘though as you say not great. Still, I did like the setting and atmosphere quite a lot. I wonder what you’ll think of The Likeness.


  5. I’ve heard good things about this book, and sort of put it on the TBR list. I think you did a great job of analyzing where the book let you down. I think it’s usually harder to write about a book that disappoints rather than one I love.

    Good review–I still might give it a try–you’re right in that it has all the riight elements for a great book.


  6. I liked this and have liked the others successively even more. You have to be prepared for the fact that characters you grow to love will not necessarily appear again as French tends to take a relatively minor character from the book before and place them dead centre in the next one. Still, it’s fun trying to guess who will come under the spotlight in the forthcoming book.


  7. I really loved this book. I thought it was very well written, the characters were well written and didn’t go out of their ‘forms’ like sometimes happened. I was very taken by the mystery and the only disappointment for me was the end (I will not tell for those of you who have not read it yet). I read this through very quickly and could not put it down. I have not yet tried any of her other books although I would like to.


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