In the WoodsBook - 2007
When he was twelve years old, Adam Ryan went playing in the woods one day with his two best friends. He never saw them again. Their bodies were never found, and Adam himself was discovered with his back pressed against an oak tree and his shoes filled with blood. He had no memory of what had happened.
Twenty years on, Rob Ryan - the child who came back - is a detective in the Dublin police force. He's changed his name. No one knows about his past. Then a little girl's body is found at the site of the old tragedy and Rob is drawn back into the mystery. Knowing that he would be thrown off the case if his past were revealed, Rob takes a fateful decision to keep quiet but hope that he might also solve the twenty-year-old mystery of the woods.
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This book wasn't quite what I was expecting--it was far more.
French writes with a taut, well-paced style. The story begins with several potential areas of tension: male and female detective partners; a detective who is hiding his true identity because of a childhood trauma; and a murder to solve that has taken place at the site of that childhood trauma. And the author pulls and works each of these strands in the a very taut rope.
Because the story is told in first-person—Detective Rob Ryan is living with the aftermath of a childhood trauma—the reader sees and hears everything he does. But we also see how his mind works. More interestingly, we watch his mind unravel. But French's writing is so tightly paced that the reader is sliding down the treacherous slope with Rob Ryan before we realize it.
Detective Ryan’s story begins as a typical detective investigation, with only a few phrases suggesting he is telling this story from a point in the future. But as the murder investigation continues, the tension between Ryan and his partner builds. This becomes more apparent in Ryan’s telling, as he begins adding more information about their relationship and the changes he begins to recognize after the case.
As the case reaches its tense conclusion, Ryan’s voice becomes a tight balance between distraught and resigned. And the reader cannot put the book down until knowing how the story turns out.
As the investigation concludes, the reader is as exhausted as the investigators. The final chapter is Ryan’s “now.” He is looking back with all the awareness of hindsight, filled with sadness, self-loathing, and resignation.
This reader was left feeling overwhelmed by the emotions in these characters as well as the self-absorption most humans go through life with. One of the most amazing “whodunits” I’ve ever read.
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