In the Woods by Tana French

Title: In the Woods
Author:  Tana French
Release Date:  May 17, 2007
Publisher:  Penguin
Page Count:  464
Genre:  Fiction, Mystery, Thriller
Source:  personal copy


I’ve been wanting to read In the Woods for a long time.  I’m not sure who I first heard about it from – I think it was Trish but I’m not 100% on that – but many, many bloggers have raved about both of Tana French’s books.  So I finally picked it up and began… and, my goodness, what a ride!

So the narrator of the book is a detective named Rob Ryan, and when Rob was a child his two best friends disappeared in the woods where they were all playing, and Rob was found with blood in his shoes, not able to remember a thing about what happened to his friends.  Twenty years later, his partner Cassie (partner like detective partner, not like relationship partner) and himself are called to investigate a murder of a thirteen-year-old girl whose body was found in the same woods where Rob’s childhood incident took place.  Of course, nobody at the police department knows that Rob is THAT KID (except Cassie, because they know everything about each other), so not only do they have to solve the murder but they also have to keep his connection to it quiet because if anyone found out they would both be in a ton of trouble.

I would definitely call In the Woods a “literary thriller” because while it’s definitely a thriller, Tana French can seriously write.  It’s a very wordy book, with explanations and descriptions and complex conversations, and although it took me awhile to get through the book (especially for “thriller” standards), I loved every minute of it.  Not only was I on the edge of my seat trying to solve the mystery, I was also fully immersed in these characters and couldn’t wait to find out what would happen with them.  And I liked them – all of them.  Even though Rob is really not a sympathetic character (especially toward the end), I had sympathy for him.  I wanted things to work out for him, I wanted his pain to go away, I wanted him to be happy.

And let me tell you, I was shocked at the ending.  Beyond shocked.  It just went in the total opposite direction of what I expected, and I LOVED that.  It made me desperate to read The Likeness (French’s other book, which I’ll be reading soon) because I know that Cassie is the main character in that one, and I desperately want to find out what happened in her life after In the Woods ended.

I have to admit that I was a little frustrated with the fact that not every loose end was tied up in this book.  I see that French did that on purpose, and yes the biggest mystery of all is solved.  But when I closed the book, I had lingering questions and I was uncomfortable with that.  I’m okay with it, because I appreciate the lack of a perfect ending, but still.  For my own curiosity’s sake, I want to know more!

Would I recommend this one?  Absolutely, without a doubt.  In the Woods is an awesome story that I think you’ll love (all of you).

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34 thoughts on “In the Woods by Tana French

  1. I think you may have now left me as the only person on the planet who hasn’t read this book. 😉 But I’ve wanted to for the longest time. And now I do even more!

  2. I want you to know that I just read the top and bottom of your review because like you I haven’t read this book yet. Just knowing that you loved it so much makes me want to grab it off my shelf and get to it!!

  3. I’m still feeling meh about this one, although I did love The Likeness. And now that Her Fearful Symmetry is out, I can’t stop thinking that the two covers are way too similar.

  4. This one has been on my list forever, too! Every time I think about it and remember to check for it, though, it’s checked out of the library. :/

  5. I agree with you: Ms. French can certainly write. But, it really irked me that I was left hanging not knowing about his childhood friends. I kept thinking I’d get to that, find an answer. I like my ends tied together, not left lose in a tangle.

    1. I agree. It annoyed the heck out of me, to be honest. I don’t *think* Rob makes an appearance in The Likeness, but if he does maybe we’ll find out then? Or perhaps Tana French will write another book centered around him next.

  6. I loved this one, too. For some reason, I’m having a harder time getting into The Likeness. I really missed Rob and Cassie’s relationship – I think that’s what drove me through much of In The Woods. It just felt so perfect!

    1. Oh no… don’t make me worry about loving The Likeness! Lol, I’m sorry you’re not getting into it so well. I liked Rob and Cassie’s relationship, but it was also sort of weird. Especially toward the end of the book, obviously. But I have a feeling I’ll miss Rob in The Likeness…

  7. I’ve been wanting to read this for awhile too and I will, but I’m not sure I like what you said about the ending.

  8. I’ve been seeing this one around the blogosphere, too. I think your review has convinced me. I love that it’s a mystery with complex characters!

  9. Excellent review!! I have this waiting on my shelf to be read. I should have started it ages ago but I haven’t =( I’ll definitley be getting to it soon =)

  10. I’m hoping that maybe in another book she will look again at old mystery and re-examine, because like you I would sure like to know what really happend in those woods all those years ago!!

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