Thursday, January 17, 2008


I was lucky enough to win Tana French's In The Woods in a competition on Declan Burke's excellent site, Crime Always Pays. Thanks Dec.

Katy Devlin aged 12 is found murdered on a sacrificial stone in Knocknaree Woods near Dublin. The site is being excavated by an archaeological team before a motorway is driven through the woods. Twenty years previously three children had gone missing in those same woods, Jamie Rowan, Peter Savage and Adam Robert Ryan.
Only Adam Ryan is found by the searchers, covered in blood and with no memory of what has happened to his two friends.

Now as Murder Squad detective Rob Ryan, he returns to Knocknaree to investigate Katy’s murder along with his partner Cassie Maddox.
The Devlin family may be hiding secrets, and the father Jonathan Devlin is leading a campaign against the motorway.
Is the murder connected with the corrupt landowners who have purchased land near the proposed motorway?
Were Katy, her twin Jessica and older sister Rosalind being abused by either or both of their parents?
Is there a possible connection with the twenty year old mystery disappearance of Rob’s friends?
Will Rob Ryan, the narrator, remember what happened all those years ago?

I have to say this is a memorable first novel and definitely a real page turner. I did suspect almost all the main characters of the murder, before I finally came upon the real perpetrator.
But I felt the crime seemed almost incidental to the story of the relationship between Rob and Cassie.
It seemed to me that Ryan is trying in his pathetically close and almost unhealthy relationship to Cassie to reconstruct those idyllic innocent summer childhood days with his lost friends. I did not find Ryan a particularly believable character perhaps because of the difficulty of a female author relating to a disturbed male character, or my own preconceptions.
But this did not spoil my enjoyment of the book in any way, and I rushed through the 600 pages to find the answers to the questions posed.

Tana French ratchets up the tension again and again, and one has a feeling that something even more terrible is going to happen. It is a disturbing feeling and far too reminiscent of real life for comfort.
A brilliant debut novel and a book with such a deep psychological insight into life’s disappointments and missed opportunities that it left me a bit drained at the end.


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