Tana French‘s In The Woods, is a murder-mystery novel about Police Detective Adam Robert Ryan, who, as a boy was the sole survivor of an unsolved, mysterious crime – the disappearance, and possibly murder, of his two friends, which occurred in the woods near his community.
Having no memory of what happened that tragic day, Robert Adam Ryan learned to cope and get over the incident by moving out of the community, attending board school, and later, dropping his first name altogether.
Years later, as a member of Ireland’s murder squad, Detective Rob Ryan, finds himself back in his old neighborhood, and in the very woods he tried so hard to forget, to investigate the murder of a 12-year-old girl.
Being in the same woods where his friends had disappeared as children, Rob is both terrified, and hopeful that the familiar surroundings would help him remember what really happened on that tragic summer day.
There are two stories in this novel; the first is the present-day murder of 12-year-old Katy Deviln, which Detective Ryan and his partner, Detective Cassie are investigating; and the second is Ryan’s past, trying to regain memories of his childhood and to possibly link the murder and disappearance of his friends to the present-day murder.
What I thought, and hoped, would be a thrilling, spine-tingling, murder-mystery turned out to be an annoying, complete, waste of time.
It could have been intentional on the writer’s part, but the narrator, Robert Ryan is probably one of the most annoying characters ever created. He was petty, juvenile, whiney, an emotional wreck, and a downright jerk.
One of the most annoying things about this novel was that all throughout, I kept having to remind myself that the narrator, Rob Ryan, was actually a man.
It could be because I knew the author was a woman, but I found Rob Ryan’s inner thoughts, feelings, sentiments, and actions, much too feminine.
Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying being feminine is a bad thing – it’s not. It’s just not the kind of thing you would expect from a hardened, adult, male Police Detective.
I just felt that the author failed to make me believe in her main character – specifically, she failed to make me believe that her main character was, indeed, a man.
The other annoying thing about this novel was the relationship between Rob Ryan and his partner Cassie. I found the author’s portrayal of the relationship shallow and immature. Many of their conversations were pointless, juvenile, and painfully cliche. The circumstances behind their relationship, and interactions with each other were often immature, and uncharacteristic of people in their profession, and reads, at times, like something out of a Young Adult romance book – again, I’m not saying that’s necessarily a bad thing – it’s just not something you would expect from a murder-mystery novel.
Despite the annoying, unrealistic characters and numerous cliches, my need to solve the mystery behind the disappearance of Robert Ryan’s childhood friends kept me from quitting the novel and tossing it in the nearest trash can. That, and the fact that I don’t feel comfortable saying I hated a book I never actually finished.
And because I finished the book, I can safely say that In The Woods is very disappointing, and probably one of the worst books I’ve ever read.
In The Woods (2007) – Tana French
Penguin, 432 pages.
Personal Rating: .05/5