20 years ago three children went missing in the woods near Dublin and only one was found – with no memory of what happened. The found child is now Detective Rob Ryan who keeps his past a secret. When a case comes up in which a murdered 12 year old aspiring ballerina is found in the same woods, Rob has the chance to solve both current and past mysteries.
In the Woods is a great literary thriller in the vein of Kate Atkinson’s Case Histories and Laura Lippman’s What the Dead Know. The two mysteries at the core of the narrative are both compelling and the plot twists and turns satisfactorily. The best part of the novel for me was the exploration of the close friendship between Rob and his partner Cassie. Although they met on the force, they have such a brother/sister camaraderie that everyone assumes they’ve known each other for years. Rob can crash at Cassie’s anytime, they imbibe and converse into the wee hours, and can set each other off into a fit of giggles with one look. But the case gets under Rob’s skin badly, and there’s a deep sense of foreboding as the story moves along that something irreparable is about to happen.
Although investigating murder can be a heavy topic, there are moments of lightheartedness and humor. The scene where Rob and Cassie interview the murdered girl’s sister’s alibi is downright hilarious. I also like how Rob describes the two years he bummed around between boarding school and Training College: “I’m not exactly sure what I did for those two years. I know this is one of the unthinkable taboos of our society, but I had discovered in myself a talent for a wonderful, unrepentant laziness, the kind most people never have after childhood. I read a lot. I always have, but in those two years I gorged myself on books with a voluptuous, almost erotic gluttony.”
In the Woods is now available in paperback with a gorgeously haunting cover. Tana’s second novel, The Likeness, is out in hardback and I can’t wait to read it.