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In The Woods by Tana French

Detective Rob Ryan doesn’t think about his past. He’s perfectly content in his job in the Dublin Murder Squad, solving crimes and drinking wine with his partner and best friend, Cassie Maddox. What happened years ago in a dark wood has been forgotten and, honestly, he’s left that life behind, along with his real name.

That is, until a twelve-year-old girl is found murdered in those same woods, twenty years later. Suddenly, Ryan is forced to return to the past in order to solve his current case. But as the case progresses, and Ryan sinks ever deeper into his own shadowy mystery, he comes to realise that some secrets really do not want to be uncovered – especially not those that linger in the woods.

Tana French’s In The Woods is utterly brilliant: tightly plotted story, plenty of intrigue, flawed, likeable characters, and – best of all – great, great writing. The subtle foreshadowing had me gripping the book furiously during the first half, desperate to know the answers to the many questions being raised. By the second half, things turn into a bit of a blur. Dead end follows dead end, and psychological intrigue and the slow unravelling of the protagonist’s sanity take precedence over resolutions. One case is solved, another is not, and if you are not a fan of cliffhangers, this is not a story for you. The revelation of the murderer comes as a shock – though the signs are there once you know to look for them. The plot is anything but predictable.

As far as crime novels go, this one really does have it all, from the cold case with chilling connections to the main character, to the detective’s current investigation of a young girl’s murder. French’s writing is evocative, and enthralling, and though you may often find yourself in schizophrenic indecision – whether to hurl the book in frustration at the characters’ shortcomings, or to continue reading feverishly in the hope that everything turns out alright – I would strongly suggest adding this to your list of must-read books.

REVIEWER: Tanya Allport

In the Woods, by Tana French, is published by Penguin.

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