Debut Review: In the Woods by Tana French

In The WoodsTitle: In The Woods
Author: Tana French
Publisher: Hodder
Published: 14 November 07
Price: £6.99
Bought It

You can never escape your past or so they say. And Tana French plays with this idea in her debut novel, In The Woods. Rob Ryan retells the investigation into death of a small girl found in the same woods where he, but not his two friends, had a lucky escape twenty years ago.

French hasn’t created a conventional detective novel. Ryan’s past comes back to haunt him during this investigation. She pitches it right. Ryan unravels as the case gets tougher. And as you read you wonder if he can solve it before he unravels too far.

It’s a very emotional read. French keeps you reading by playing with you. She builds the connections between the main characters and sparks them off each other. It’s a small world after all.

The strengths of this novel is how well French sets everything up. As I was reading I thought I had a good idea of who did it, if not why, and I was wrong. French, through Ryan’s eyes, gives a lot of leads and clues but these are muddied by Ryan own biases and obsessions. Another strength is how she explores the effect the investigation has on the relationship with his partner DI Cassie.

French foreshadows a lot of the major events, sometimes a little too heavily, and this gives a drive to find out the truth. And it is truthful and a bit brutal in its honesty. It’s an interesting balancing act between keeping plot moving in terms of finding the killer and showing us the emotional tensions surrounding it.

In The Woods keeps you reading as Ryan recounts and explores this investigation from beginning to end. French has created a well-crafted story with a believable, if highly fictional set events, told with strong compelling voice. A strong performing and haunting debut. I’m looking forward to seeing what she does next.

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