"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested." (Francis Bacon)

Monday, May 02, 2011

In the Woods

TITLE: In the Woods
AUTHOR: Tana French

I've read books that disappointed me before, but they were books I basically didn't like on most levels. This one disappointed me for a completely different reason.

I picked up this psychological mystery because of the background of the main detective/protagonist, Adam Ryan, now going under the name Rob Ryan. When Adam was 12, he and two friends disappeared while playing in the woods in a small town in Ireland. A while later, Adam was found, near catatonic, his socks and the inside of his shoes full of blood not his own, and with no memory of what happened. He never was able to recall the events of that day and his friends were never found. That was the story I wanted to know about, the mystery I wanted to see solved.

In the present, the murder of a 12-year-old girl in that very town, brings Det. Rob Ryan and his partner, Cassie Maddox, from Dublin's Murder Squad into the investigation. Ryan knows he should tell his superior that he's really Adam Ryan and that he shouldn't be on this case that will bring up bad associations, but he doesn't. Cass is the only one who knows the truth, and when she expresses concern, he assures her he can handle things. However, it becomes clear, in Rob's first person narration, that he can't.

For a while, it looks like there might be a connection between the two cases, and for the first time, he actively tries to remember what happened that day 20 years ago. Some memories of that summer do surface, but the crucial bits do not. The present-day mystery gets solved and while I'd guessed at some of it, it was still satisfying. And the book was beautifully written. French has great command of her narrative style. But other than hoping she'll revisit Ryan's past in a future book, I am left unsatisfied. I've enjoyed a wonderful meal, but the dessert sitting in the window, enticing me in, has been denied me.

I'll read the next book, The Likeness, which focuses on Cass now that she's no longer Ryan's partner, and I hope it will be a fully satisfying reading feast. But the disappointment of In the Woods will linger for a while.