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Wanda's Book Reviews

I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles.  (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).

In the Woods / Tana French

In the Woods - Tana French

Dublin 1984 dusk, three children vanish in the woods. One, Rob Ryan, grips a tree trunk in terror, unable to recall any detail of previous hours. Twenty years later, the detective on the Dublin Murder Squad keeps his past a secret. But when a girl 12 is killed in the same woods, Rob and Detective Cassie Maddox — partner and best pal - investigate present and past.


Not recommended for those who like a book to tie up into a nice neat parcel with a ribbon on top by the last page. This novel will leave you with questions. I liked it—but then I remember as a teen really liking an author whose books always left an ambiguous ending. Would the heroine be able to get out of the burning house? Questions like that and no sequels to answer them.

French’s writing is excellent and the story is well paced. I loved the unorthodox professional relationship between Detectives Ryan and Maddox. I think most authors would be unable to resist creating some kind of love interest between male & female partners and French resisted that urge. Instead, these two are like brother and sister, with amusing repartee and an unusually close relationship.

I also loved her occasional acerbic comments on the human race—for instance, “Humans are feral and ruthless.” That observation, early in the novel, prepares you for things to come.

In the Woods is very much an exploration of the limits of human memory. Any police officer or lawyer will be able to tell you that the human memory is incomplete at best and completely unreliable at worst. Neurologists think that all of our memories are in the brain somewhere—the problem is accessing those memories. And in the very act of accessing them, we may be altering those memories as well. Each time we recall something, when we re-store it to memory, we add bits & pieces, impressions, opinions, and down-right fabrications. This is why any case going to trial also requires firm forensic evidence and why so many people have been wrongfully convicted based strictly on eye-witness testimony. Detective Ryan is the guy with the slippery memory—what happened to him in 1984? How did he end up in blood soaked sneakers, rips in the back of his t-shirt, backed up against a tree with his fingers dug into the bark, catatonic? Why has he never been able to remember any details? And does this have any bearing on the current murder which has occurred in the same stand of woods?

I look forward to reading more of the Dublin Murder Squad series!