Rating: 3 stars
A gorgeously written novel that marks the debut of an astonishing new voice in psychological suspense.
As dusk approaches a small Dublin suburb in the summer of 1984, mothers begin to call their children home. But on this warm evening, three children do not return from the dark and silent woods. When the police arrive, they find only one of the children. He is gripping a tree trunk in terror, wearing blood-filled sneakers and unable to recall a single detail of the previous hours.
Twenty years later, the found boy, Rob Ryan, is a detective on the Dublin Murder Squad and keeps his past a secret. But when a 12-year-old girl is found murdered in the same woods, he and Detective Cassie Maddox (his partner and closest friend) find themselves investigating a case chillingly similar to the previous unsolved mystery. Now, with only snippets of long-buried memories to guide him, Ryan has the chance to uncover both the mystery of the case before him and that of his own shadowy past.
As a crime scene novel, this book perfectly depicted how investigators solve crimes. There was just enough mystery and suspense to keep me interested in finding out what Ryan and his partner Cassie discovered. The writing was the perfect tone, adding to the suspense when needed, and describing the setting of the world around Ryan in perfect detail. It made me engaged, wanting to know more about what happened. Also enjoyed that the setting took place in Ireland because I haven’t read too many novels that take place in other countries. So it’s always interesting reading books like this where the setting isn’t somewhere I’m familiar with.
I also enjoyed hearing more about Ryan’s past. While he’s definitely not my favorite detective in this book, I loved learning more about the trauma he went through and understanding how that shaped him into the character read about in the book. I also enjoyed his friendship with Cassie, my favorite character in the book. I found both of them together as partners to be very amusing when solving crimes because they had amazing chemistry.
But while I enjoyed these aspects of In the Woods, there were so many things with this novel too that left me criticizing it. For one, Ryan’s character wasn’t great. When I first started reading this book, I didn’t mind him all that much. But the more I read, the less I liked him. I think my disdain for him is because of the way he acts with Cassie and the way he talks about his past. After everything they’ve been through together and Ryan saying Cassie is his best friend, he lets their friendship go without a fight over the dumbest thing. He ruins his friendship with her instead of trying to talk things out like responsible adults are supposed to do. And she tries to set things right, but he wants nothing more to do with her until it’s too late. That really bothers me because she was his best friend, yet he doesn’t act like it after what happened. I also don’t like the way he talks about his past because he’s never let go of the one mystery surrounding his childhood, the one he has the opportunity of solving only to let it slip through his fingers. I get his memory of events is skewered, but when he’s given the chance to solve the crime that has literally changed his life, he doesn’t put his best effort into it. He starts remembering some of the events that came before, but doesn’t even push himself to figure out what happened.
I also don’t like how the main case in this story was solved. There were so many mistakes made during the investigation that it took a lot longer for them to solve the crime if they’d looked in certain places at the very beginning. I also didn’t like who they chose as the scapegoat for the crimes because the person who actually came up with the idea got away with it completely.
To be honest, I was completely disappointed by the end of the story. There was so much buildup that I was expecting things to end differently. But that wasn’t the case at all. Instead, things change for the worse and the mysterious crime that occurred during the narrator’s childhood is never solved, despite the flashbacks in the past he experienced.
So while I enjoyed reading In the Woods, there were a lot of things in the story that left me disappointed, wanting more than what was given. Nonetheless, I plan on reading the second book in this series The Likeness in hopes that it’ll be a better read.