Lost… In The Woods

Tana French takes the reader into the woods near the Irish town of Knocknaree. Some twenty years ago, two children disappeared, leaving one catatonic and lacking any memory of what happened. Present day, the surviving child, who adopts a different first name, is Rob Ryan, and he is a detective trying to solve another crime that has happened adjacent to the same patch of woods. Ryan and his two colleagues, Cassie and Sam, work hard to figure out who killed a local ballet prodigy. In the process, Ryan goes down a horrible version of memory lane without actually recalling enough of what happened to him to make sense. He runs afoul of his superior and Cassie in the process.

In The Woods succeeds as a character study, a deep look into Rob Ryan and the scars left by his childhood tragedy. He wrestles with relationships both personal and professional. He struggles to stay focused on his job while haunted by the past. He never seems to get any traction, eventually falling to pieces. Recovering, he manages to catch a killer, but loses many things that matter in between. His descent to the edge of madness is compelling as much as it is frustrating for reasons mentioned next. As a crime story it works well, too, but only for the ballet prodigy case.

The trouble with this story is its lack of resolution. The set up is great, past and present colliding, but the reader is left holding the bag. For a sequel? For self-examination? It’s not exactly clear. I do look forward to the next installment with Cassie as the lead. Maybe she will keep it together long enough to tie up the loose ends, something important in this genre, something the author didn’t do for Rob Ryan.

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