In the Woods
October 29, 2019 5:26 PM - by Tana French - Subscribe

First in the Dublin Murder series. You're twelve years old. It's the summer holiday. You're playing in the woods with your two best friends. Something happens. Something terrible. And the other two are never seen again.

Twenty years on, Rob Ryan - the child who came back - is a detective in the Dublin police force. He's changed his name. No one knows about his past. Even he has no memory of what happened that day.

Then a little girl's body is found at the site of the old tragedy and Rob is drawn back into the mystery. For him and his DI partner, Cassie, every lead comes with its own sinister undercurrents. The victim's apparently normal family is hiding layers of secrets. Rob's own private enquiries are taking a toll on his mind.

And every trail leads inexorably back ... into the woods.

This book and the second book in the series, The Likeness, are covered in the first season of the tv show, Dublin Murders, currently airing in the UK and soon to air in the US.
posted by jeather (19 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
This book features one of my favorite unreliable narrators in fiction. The slow roll reveal of Rob's terrible choices and just how unreliable he is, and in what ways, was horribly, amazingly compelling to me. I listened to the audiobook of this one while I was doing a lot of driving back and forth over the holidays, and the combination of the mystery and all the ways Rob fucked up kept me totally riveted. I did a lot of exclaiming "oh Rob, you dumb fuck" and "oh Rob, you are so fucked up" out loud in my empty car.

I know the choice to never explain what happened to Rob in the woods is a divisive one. Personally, I didn't mind it all, partly because never finding out fits in so well with the persistent theme of Rob being a flawed, self-deceiving, and unreliable narrator. I also loved the maybe real, maybe not hints of something spooky and supernatural going on.
posted by yasaman at 7:32 PM on October 29, 2019 [6 favorites]

The slow roll reveal of Rob's terrible choices and just how unreliable he is, and in what ways, was horribly, amazingly compelling to me.

SAME. And I loved going right on to The Likeness after this one. I’ve enjoyed all of French’s books, but the first two together are especially good.
posted by sallybrown at 7:45 PM on October 29, 2019 [1 favorite]

I really love the audiobooks for this series with their Irish-accented narrators. It has been a while since I read this one, and I'm watching the adaptations at the moment and realizing I don't remember the plot of In the Woods as well as I thought I did.
posted by whir at 8:25 PM on October 29, 2019

This series is so good.
posted by bq at 10:06 PM on October 29, 2019

Oh wow. I read this last year because Kobo had it on sale for $2.99 or something like that, and I was hooked. Got back after Christmas dinner and just went straight back to it until I finished it! I, too, keep exclaiming things like “Oh god Rob, NOOOOO, stop right there, you massive fuckup!”

What a perfect opening though. I was riveted from the first few pages.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 1:00 AM on October 30, 2019

I found this book in a sale pile in Heathrow (3 books for 15 or something like), and I had planned to buy books for the flight home, and this was amazing. I was completely hooked, and accept that we don't get an answer for Rob-Adam/Jamie/Peter though I really wish I knew. French has said, more than once, that she has an answer, but that it wasn't true to the character (Rob running away from everything, especially himself) to find it out.

It was really a revelation in mysteries at the time, and though I've loved all her books there was something special about reading this first one.
posted by jeather at 6:12 AM on October 30, 2019

I loved this book, probably one of my very favorites of all of Tana French's. I really wish she had come back to Cassie as a narrator - I would have loved a book set from her perspective.
posted by peacheater at 9:30 AM on October 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

Book 2 is set from Cassie's perspective.
posted by jeather at 9:49 AM on October 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

Oh wait, you're right. Maybe I was thinking more about Rob? Despite his fucked-upness, I guess I was hoping for some closure in a later book, maybe some indication that he learned and grew from the experience. But French doesn't seem to want to visit the same ground twice.
posted by peacheater at 10:28 AM on October 30, 2019

I am so into Tana French lately, and this was wonderful. I read it after I read her most recent, the Witch Elm, and the parallels were striking to me. I devoured a number of her books afterwards. The unreliable narrator is pitch perfect. I didn't know there was a tv series!

I don't know if this is allowed in FanFare or if I should post an AskMe but if I like Tana French, are there any other authors Mefites might recommend?
posted by hepta at 11:30 AM on October 30, 2019

Have you seen this AskMe, hepta?

If I like Tana French, I will like ________________

Of all the suggestions in the thread, the ones that gripped me most (like Tana French, even though the writing style is not the same at all) were Kate Atkinson's Jackson Brodie mysteries. I love them.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 3:32 PM on October 30, 2019 [3 favorites]

I hate her Jackson Brodie mysteries (but love her other books, and actually got one of the Jackson Brodie books with the French). I like a number of the authors in that ask, but agree that Carol O'Connell specifically is underrated.
posted by jeather at 4:32 PM on October 30, 2019

I love the Jackson Brodie books even though sometimes I can’t stand Jackson Brodie the character. It kind of reminds me of how I felt about Rob Ryan. But Atkinson’s books are a bit jokier/dark humor than French’s.
posted by sallybrown at 4:37 PM on October 30, 2019

I loved this book but would probably never read it again because I thought it was the most profoundly sad book I’ve ever read. Oddly, I thought The Likeness retroactively made it a bit less sad.
posted by holborne at 9:10 PM on October 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

Oh, I love this series. I was totally fine with the lack of resolution on what happened to Rob - I can't imagine any possible explanation that would have been particularly satisfying, and thinking about it, I'm also generally fond of books that make ample room for loose ends and unexplained weirdness. I actually found the whodunnit we do get answered a little bit pat, although the prose and the characterization for the main duo were easily gorgeous enough to make up for it.

Also, Rob's appealing narrative voice aside, he's also just a walking miasma of unexamined trauma and terrible life decisions. Was very happy to see Cassie given a chance to get over him in the sequel!
posted by eponym at 9:33 PM on October 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

How often should someone post a book in the series? Weekly?
posted by jeather at 4:37 AM on October 31, 2019

I nominate you to make all the decisions and do all the work.
posted by bq at 8:06 AM on October 31, 2019 [1 favorite]

Ok I got bored at work today.
posted by jeather at 12:31 PM on November 1, 2019 [1 favorite]

Book four posted.
posted by jeather at 6:58 AM on November 11, 2019

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