Sunday, August 23, 2009

9. In the Woods by Tana French

This book was recommended to me by Fat Bridesmaid. I'm definitely going to have to read her other suggestions too, because I really liked this one.

I read In the Woods on a Sunday, and after I told Colin about it, he decided to read it too. This post has been on hold for awhile, because there's no way I can write it without spoilers and I didn't want to spoil it for him. So everyone has their fair warning, right?


This story centers around a young detective named Adam Robert Ryan, who tells us about working to solve a young girl's murder. Rob has a very close relationship with his partner, Cassie, and she knows more about him than any of their colleagues. As a child, Rob was known as Adam to his best friends Jamie and Peter. He can remember almost nothing of their childhood together, nor of the day that they disappeared in the woods by their town and he was found clutching a tree, with blood soaked through his shoes. No trace of Jamie or Peter has ever been found. However, Rob does not consider his story to be especially tragic, and leads his life in relative anonymity. Until the Katy Devlin case lands on his desk. Katy's body is found at the site of an archaeological dig in the town where Rob lived until Jamie and Peter (and Adam) disappeared. Throughout the investigation, Rob and Cassie begin to suspect that something was wrong in Katy's home. Her sisters seem troubled and the detectives focus on the nature of the father's relationships with his daughters. The case takes on a life of its own and Rob and Cassie's friendship begins to dissolve after a night of unexpected passion. After some twists and turns, it's revealed that Katy's older sister Rosalind orchestrated her murder, using a worker from the dig as her patsy. As Cassie was able to suss out, but Rob wasn't, Rosalind was a classic sociopath and had no qualms about eliminating her "uppity" little sister by using her wiles to convince a young man to do her bidding.

Rob tells us the story of working this case after the fact, which is very effective. He's gained some insight and perspective, and alludes to things he could have done differently without giving away the ending. Clues were dropped in subtly throughout the story so that the end surprised you, but didn't come out of nowhere. Had you been paying attention to the right parts, you could have put the puzzle pieces together. I think that's what makes for a great mystery. You can feel as though the author is speaking to you on your level, even if you didn't guess the outcome.

Rob's story is amazing. He has vague bits and pieces of memory of this idyllic childhood with great friends. He knows something terrible and tragic happened to the three of them, but has never been able to remember what. He was sent away to boarding school afterward and his parents moved to another town, so he's never truly had to revisit the events of the past. During the Devlin case, Rob is forced to confront the past, and he comes to terms with the enormity of what he has lost. He has been robbed of his life with Jamie and Peter, and is able to finally realize that and mourn for it.

Let's get to the frustrating part. Although Rob starts to regain some memories of his childhood while working the case (the Devlin father turns out to be a teenager that Rob knew of as a child), he never remembers what happened to Jamie and Peter.

You never find out what happened to Jamie and Peter!

I can understand why the author might have felt it would have been a cop-out to reveal what happened -- she had set up the promise of an unsolved, unsolvable mystery. But when Rob started to piece together things that he hadn't been able to remember, you naturally assume that he'll be able to figure out the events of that day. The two parallel mysteries from Rob's past and present unfold simultaneously, and when you find out what happened to Katy, you naturally assume that you'll find out what happened to Jamie and Peter. You just naturally assume that there will be some sort of pay-off at the end, and you're totally left hanging.

When Colin was about halfway through, he shared a theory with me. He thought that Peter killed Jamie and traumatized Adam on that fateful day, and now killed Katy as an adult. It killed me to not react, because I was thinking that while I enjoyed In the Woods tremendously, I want to read that book!

No comments: