Review: In the Woods, by Tana French

In the Woods

In 1984, three children walked into the woods surrounding the suburban estate they lived in; when they failed to come home, police and community came together to search for them. One of the children was found, standing paralyzed against a tree, wearing shoes that had been filled with blood. The boy is catatonic and when he finally wakes up in the hospital, he has no memory of what happened. Despite massive-scaled searches and an extensive police investigation, his two friends have never been found.

Twenty years later, that boy is now a detective on the Murder squad in Dublin; he finds himself involved in a murder case involving a 12-year-old girl whose body is found in those very same woods.

In In the Woods, Tana French entwines the story of the 20-year-old murder with this new murder; we meet both Rob Ryan, now a flawed adult, and his new partner Detective Cassie Maddox. I was pulled into the book immediately, and found it impossible to put down.

What did I love best about the book? In addition to French’s writing – and she writes very well – I enjoyed the relationship that Ryan and Maddox had with each other. There was an element of playfulness and fun that was a nice complement to the otherwise dark edges of the novel.

Which is why I enjoyed the first half of the book more than I liked the last half of the book. I don’t want to give anything away, but if/once you’ve read the book, I’m pretty sure you’ll know what I’m talking about.

I did spot “the big clue” right when it surfaced, long before the detectives themselves clued in and it became the beginning of the resolution. I also had a pretty good idea who the murderer to the main mystery was, and why, long before Ryan figured it out; I didn’t know how, though, which kept me racing to the end of this book.

I was definitely a little disappointed in the ending, but I can’t really say why without giving away too much. At the same time, though, it was a realistic ending in many ways. And oddly enough, the fact that I knew who the murderer was before it was spelled out actually meant that I wasn’t totally surprised at the way things ended.

Despite my disappointment, the writing is so well done, I find myself quite able to forgive the book its ending.

I enjoyed this book, and I’m looking forward to reading The Likeness.

Where to buy In the Woods:

U.S. ( | Indiebound | Canada (Chapters) | UK (

Review copy details: published by Viking/Penguin Group, 2007, hardcover, 429 pages

22 thoughts on “Review: In the Woods, by Tana French

  1. Kate S.

    My response to the book was very similar. I was completely riveted to begin with but half way through my attention began to flag. I thought perhaps it was just too long, and I actually switched from listening to audio to reading a paperback copy so I could speed up the pace! Now that you’ve pointed out though, I think that it had more to do with a shift in tone. But I still liked it well enough that I’m very keen to read “The Likeness.” I expect that it will be very interesting to experience Cassie Maddox from her own perspective rather than through Ryan’s eyes.
    .-= Kate S.´s last blog ..Learning’s Best Justification =-.

    1. Belle

      I feel the same way about The Likeness. I really liked Cassie Maddox, and it will be so interesting to follow a story from her perspective.

    2. Kim

      This book sucked! I just finished it and am EXTREMELY disappointed. It started very slow, but I wasn’t going to quit after I’d already started it. It’s entirely too long. The story could have been told alot faster than it was. And speaking of the story, the author never finishes it! Very annoying after I’ve read through the whole thing to not have the biggest question answered! Sure it’s maybe a realistic ending to this type of story, but this is not reality! It’s a novel, and she should have finished the story! Period! I will not recommend this read to anyone, and won’t be reading anything else by this author.

    1. Belle

      I hope you’re not put off In The Woods, Memory. Despite the ending, it is a lovely read. I haven’t read The Likeness yet, but you do get a perspective on Cassie that I’m thinking might make The Likeness even more enjoyable.

  2. Belle

    Baba, Cathy, Jill, Kerri: It’s definitely a good read. I’ve read other reviews in which people were very frustrated by the ending, but I didn’t feel the same way. The book’s not perfect, and I think the character of Ryan is just a little too flawed for my taste, but overall it was a good read. The writing is done so well, too.

  3. Nicole

    I can totally agree with you and understand the mixed feelings about In The Woods. It was so well written and the characters were really interesting, and though yes the ending was realistic, I still wanted a little more. I really think that The Likeness improves on In The Woods 100%. It is fabulous.
    .-= Nicole´s last blog ..Wife of the Gods, by Kwei Quartey =-.

  4. Margot

    I guess I’m the only one who hasn’t read this book. Your review has me wanting to know more, especially if it’s so well written. Sounds like if I decide to read it I really have to commit to two books. But, thank you for an honest review that didn’t give away the mystery.
    .-= Margot´s last blog ..Update: Julie & Julia – The Movie =-.

  5. Dawn - She is Too Fond of Books

    No, Margot’s not the last to read this book … I don’t have either Tana French waiting on my TBR yet. They’ve caught my eye, and I’ve read reviews with similar thoughts to yours. Interesting that so many have read both books and thought THE LIKENESS was “tighter”. I will get to them eventually; thanks for your honest review.
    .-= Dawn – She is Too Fond of Books´s last blog ..Now hear this! Thoughts on *Law of Connection* audiobook by Michael Losier (guest post) =-.

  6. Rebecca

    I hate it that the book’s ending disappointed you. I am glad to see you were able to find things to enjoy about it as well, though. I am still undecided if I want to read this one or not. Maybe I will put it off for a while. I have enough to read anyway! lol
    .-= Rebecca´s last blog ..How Well Read Are You? =-.

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  8. Pingback: Tana French – In the Woods « Fyrefly’s Book Blog

  9. Pingback: The Likeness, by Tana French - Ms. Bookish

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