Monday, April 25, 2011

Books Yay!: In The Woods, by Tana French

I could not put this book down.

In The Woods is ostensibly a crime novel about the murder of a young girl, but in reality, it's more about the relationships we form and the way our past affects us.  The detectives investigating the murder are Cassie Maddox and Adam "Rob" Ryan.  Ryan was the sole survivor of a mysterious incident in the same woods in which the murder victim was found, and has come a long way from that incident to his current position.  He has totally excised the incident - of which he remembers nothing - from his life, only to have it forcibly dragged back in when this case comes to the department. 

French's intermingling of the two mysteries, past and present, heightens the tension in both, and her handling of the plot is really spectacular.  Still, the centerpiece of the book is actually the friendship between Maddox and Ryan, a strange connection between tomboy and shy man that continually dances the line between solid professional partnership and romantic interest.  One of the things I appreciated most is that French has Ryan - in whose voice the story is told - engage in the same kind of self-justification that we all do from time to time, telling someone that everything is copacetic when in fact you're trying to convince yourself.  The relationship is clearly beyond the bounds of their professional partnership, even though that aspect of their relationship certainly benefits from their closeness.  I think it's a more honest look at the way people occasionally wind up at work when they're employed in very intense environments; certain jobs just demand that you involve more of your humanity, and being able to do that well is contingent on having people around you who you can reveal that to and whose humanity will align with your own.

To unravel the plot of In The Woods would really be unfair to you as a reader, because there is absolutely no reason for you to pass this one by.  Whether you like good writing, mysteries, police novels, psychological drama, romances, you name it...this is just a damn good book, and you should pick it up.  French's writing has that beautiful quiet tone that you sometimes find in Irish writing, and the world in which she sets her story is lush and incredibly tactile.  You feel like you have been to these towns and offices and woods - but always as an outsider.  Holding you at an arm's distance maintains the fog of mystery over the whole situation and makes for an incredible reading experience.  I highly recommend this book and hope you'll pick it up!

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