I’ve been having a lovely weekend not worrying about school, reading, doing some chores and hauling my warm weather clothes up from their basement storage. It looks like it is going to be in the low to mid 70s (F) at my parents’ house when I visit later in the week so I had to dig out some appropriate things to wear since in spite of a couple 60 degree days, the temperatures here are in the 40s and 50s and still too early to change the clothes in my closet from cold weather to warm weather.
I finished reading In the Woods by Tana French and must say I enjoyed it very much. In spite of the central event being a murder, the novel is not a mystery or a thriller or crime story in the strictest sense. It is really a psychological novel told by a narrator who is not completely reliable though his voice is so ernest and honest seeming that many times I took him at his word.
The narrator, Detective Rob Ryan, is haunted by the unsolved murders of his two best friends that happened when they were twelve. The three of them went into the woods to play on a summer afternoon, just like always, but only Ryan came out alive. The bodies of his friends were never found and Ryan has no memory of what happened. Now in his 30s and on the murder investigation squad, he gets assigned to a new case where a twelve-year-old girl is found murdered in the same woods that his friends disappeared in. Are the two incidents linked? Can Ryan remember what happened all those years ago and in so doing throw some light on the current investigation?
I found the whole theme of what we can and can’t remember an intriguing one. I am always fascinated by memory and how unreliable it is even when we think we are absolutely certain we recall something correctly. But for Ryan it has a bigger impact:
Losing a chunk of your memory is a tricky thing, a deep-sea quake triggering shifts and upheavals too far distant from the epicenter to be easily predictable. From that day on, any nagging little half-remembered thing shimmers with a bright aura of hypnotic, terrifying potential: this could be trivia, or it could be The Big One that blows your life and your mind wide open.
And of course, when you are a detective, you are also dealing with the memories of others, where were you at this day and time? What were you doing? Did you see anything suspicious? Trying to figure out the truth from the lies, the correctly remembered from the misremembered is no easy thing.
It’s a good story and I liked the interplay between Ryan and his partner Cassie. The ending though, well, some things get resolved in a surprising way and others are left hanging. Some of the things that are left hanging I was glad about, they did not need a conclusion and it would have been a let down in a way if the ends were tied up neatly. There was only one small thing really that I wish had been resolved but one could also argue that there was closure on it in a way. I can’t say what it was because I don’t want to ruin anything if you haven’t read the book. And if you haven’t read the book and are looking for something smart but not mentally taxing, this is one to definitely consider. One particularly delightful thing, In the Woods is French’s first book. Her third is about to be published. If she has begun on such a good note, she is sure to only keep getting better.