My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I purchased this at Munro’s Books when I was in Victoria for my mini-vacation. I’d brought some reading material with me, but when I got there, meh. I wanted a Vacation Read. So I exited my fancy-pants hotel, strolled along the inner harbor in front of The Empress and along Government Street, navigating around tourists and buskers alike.
Munro’s is owned by Jim Munro, first husband of Alice. Yes, that Alice. It’s in an old bank building on Government Street in the heart of the touristy area (maple syrup? stuffed animals in Mountie outfits? T-shirts with CANADA on the front? you’re in the right place). I used to go there all the time when I lived in Victoria, so I got all verklempt (j/k) as I browsed the fiction shelves (still in the same location in the store) remembering a younger me standing there in days of yore.
Over the past year or so, Tana French’s novels kept coming up on the lit blogs I read, so when I spotted this on the shelf, I was like a-ha! That’s the one. A mystery, but not a cookie-cutter one. Perfect. And when I took it to the counter to pay, they even gave me a lime-green bookmark that matched the cover. Well played, Munro’s!
In the Woods is the first of a series about the fictional Dublin Murder Squad, though I understand the series is not typical in that each book has different narrator. In this story, there are two mysteries: a present-day one and one from the past of the narrator, police detective Rob Ryan. Ryan has hidden his past from his employers (this is a stretch, but ok) so part of his motivation is keeping his secret.
I liked French’s writing style; the overall atmosphere of the book was creepy and delicious. The interplay between the two main characters, Rob and his partner Cassie Maddox, was also compelling. The book falters a bit in the ending, but it’s not as bad as some reviews I’ve read have made it out to be. I gave it 3 stars at Goodreads, but it’s really more of a 3.5 (half-stars! get on that, Goodreads).
The thing is, I think the mystery here is more of a device through which to get to know the characters. It’s not really the point—it’s a macguffin, basically. My favorite kind of story 🙂 So I’m less critical of how the story ended here than I would be if it was a straightforward detective story where you have certain expectations of the ending.
Hope that’s neither too vague or too spoilery! I’ll definitely be checking out the sequels to In the Woods (there are three so far: The Likeness, Faithful Place, and Broken Harbor).