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In the Woods (French)

In the Woods  (Dublin Murder Squad Series 1)
Tana French, 2007
Penguin Group USA
464 pp.
ISBN-13: 9780143113492


Summary

As dusk approaches a small Dublin suburb in the summer of 1984, mothers begin to call their children home. But on this warm evening, three children do not return from the dark and silent woods. When the police arrive, they find only one of the children gripping a tree trunk in terror, wearing blood-filled sneakers, and unable to recall a single detail of the previous hours.

Twenty years later, the found boy, Rob Ryan, is a detective on the Dublin Murder Squad and keeps his past a secret. But when a twelve-year-old girl is found murdered in the same woods, he and Detective Cassie Maddox—his partner and closest friend—find themselves investigating a case chillingly similar to the previous unsolved mystery. Now, with only snippets of long-buried memories to guide him, Ryan has the chance to uncover both the mystery of the case before him and that of his own shadowy past.

Richly atmospheric, stunning in its complexity, and utterly convincing and surprising to the end, In the Woods is sure to enthrall fans of Mystic River and The Lovely Bones. (From the publisher.)



Author Bio
Birth—1973
Where—Vermont, USA
Education—B.A., Trinity College (Dublin)
Awards—Edgar Award, Macavity Award, Barry Award
Currently—lives in Dublin, Ireland


Tana French is an Irish novelist and theatrical actress. Her debut novel In the Woods (2007), a psychological mystery, won the Edgar, Anthony, Macavity, and Barry awards for best first novel. She is a liaison of the Purple Heart Theatre Company and also works in film and voiceover.

French was born in the U.S. to Elena Hvostoff-Lombardi and David French. Her father was an economist working in resource management for the developing world, and the family lived in numerous countries around the globe, including Ireland, Italy, the US, and Malawi.

French attended Trinity College, Dublin, where she was trained in acting. She ultimately settled in Ireland. Since 1990 she has lived in Dublin, which she considers home, although she also retains citizenship in the U.S. and Italy. French is married and has a daughter with her husband.

Dublin Murder Squad series
In the Woods - 2007
The Likeness - 2008
Faithful Place - 2010
Broken Harbor - 2012
The Secret Places - 2014
(Bio adapted from Wikipedia. Retrieved 9/2/2014.)



Book Reviews 
[French] sets a vivid scene for her complex characters, who seem entirely capable of doing the unexpected. Drawn by the grim nature of her plot and the lyrical ferocity of her writing, even smart people who should know better will be able to lose themselves in these dark woods.
Marilyn Stasio - New York Times


Readers who like their hardboiled police procedurals with an international flair will love Irish author Tana French’s debut novel.... In the Woods is as creepily imaginative as it gets.
USA Today


This is an amazing piece of work, taut, persuasive, and intricately constructed to stunning effect.
AudioFile


Irish author French expertly walks the line between police procedural and psychological thriller in her debut. When Katy Devlin, a 12-year-old girl from Knocknaree, a Dublin suburb, is found murdered at a local archeological dig, Det. Rob Ryan and his partner, Cassie Maddox, must probe deep into the victim's troubled family history. There are chilling similarities between the Devlin murder and the disappearance 20 years before of two children from the same neighborhood who were Ryan's best friends. Only Maddox knows Ryan was involved in the 1984 case. The plot climaxes with a taut interrogation by Maddox of a potential suspect, and the reader is floored by the eventual identity and motives of the killer. A distracting political subplot involves a pending motorway in Knocknaree, but Ryan and Maddox are empathetic and flawed heroes, whose partnership and friendship elevate the narrative beyond a gory tale of murdered children and repressed childhood trauma.
Publishers Weekly


(Starred review.) Rob Ryan and his partner, Cassie Maddox, land the first big murder case of their police careers: a 12-year-old girl has been murdered in the woods adjacent to a Dublin suburb. Twenty years before, two children disappeared in the same woods, and Ryan was found clinging to a tree trunk, his sneakers filled with blood, unable to tell police anything about what happened to his friends.... An outstanding debut and a series to watch for procedural fans. —Thomas Gaughan.
Booklist


The discovery of a body near a spooky wood forces a murder-squad detective in Ireland to confront his own horrific past, in an engrossing if melancholy debut. This mystery, heavy on psycho-drama, is set in the Dublin suburb of Knocknaree and is the first in a sequence to feature detectives Cassie Maddox and Adam Ryan. Adam has hidden his secret from everyone in the police force except his partner and best friend Cassie. She alone knows that he was the surviving child of three who went missing in the wood in 1984. Adam was found clinging to a tree, his shoes full of blood; there was no trace of his pals Peter and Jamie, nor could Adam remember a thing. Now, 20 years on, Katy Devlin's battered body has been found by the same wood, where an archaeological dig is in progress, under threat from plans for a new road. The investigation—Operation Vestal—evokes queasy sensations and flashes of recollection in Adam. The relationship with Cassie goes awry after the two sleep together. Adam eventually solves the Katy Devlin murder, but in this meditation on lost innocence, psychopathology and fear, his success is ruined when his own history emerges, leading to demotion. When not lengthily bogged down in angst, a readable, non-formulaic police procedural with a twist. It's ultimately the confession of a damaged man.
Kirkus Reviews



Discussion Questions 
1. What do the woods represent symbolically in Tana French's novel? Does their significance change as the story progresses?

2. The loss or absence of stable families is a recurring motif in In the Woods. How do French's characters, particularly Ryan, attempt to compensate for this absence?

3. Does the Irish setting of In the Woods contribute significantly to the telling of the story, or do you find French's novel to be about humanity on a more universal level?

4. How does Ryan's experience In the Woods at the age of twelve affect his ability to function as a detective? Is it always a hindrance to him, or are there ways in which it improves and deepens his insights?

5. Cassie Maddox, Ryan's partner, is perhaps the most consistently appealing character in the novel. What are her most attractive qualities? What are the weaker points of her personality? Does Ryan ever fully appreciate her?

6. After sleeping together, Ryan and Cassie cease to be friends. Why do you think the experience of physical intimacy is so damaging to their relationship? Are there other reasons why their friendship falls apart?

7. Ryan states that he both craves truth and tells lies. How reliable to you find him as a narrator? In what ways does the theme of truth and misrepresentation lie at the heart of In the Woods?

8. Imagine that you are Ryan's therapist. With what aspects of his personality would you most want to help him come to terms? Do you think there would be any way to lead him out of ìthe woods?î

9. How convincing is French's explanation of the motivating forces that lead to Katy's murder—forces that come close to a definition of pure evil? Are such events and motivations ever truly explicable?

10. The plan to build the new motorway, trampling as it does on a past that some regard as sacred, is an outrage to the archaeologists who are trying to preserve an ancient legacy. How does this conflict fit thematically with Ryan's own contradictory desires to unearth and to pave over his past?

11. Do you have your own theories about the mysteries that remain unsolved at the end of In the Woods? What are they?

12. What were your thoughts and emotions upon finishing In the Woods? If this book affected you differently from other mysteries you have read, why do you think this was true?
(Questions issued by the publisher.)

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