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I Loved “In the Woods.”

In my reading life, I’m in the blissfully open season after I’ve read the current year’s American Library Association Notable Books list, and before the next list is announced in January.  I’ve got a pretty substantial mental list of titles, but found myself foundering for a title.  So I took a look at a list from Amazon of the “Best of 2008.” Indirectly, I found “In the Woods” by Tana French, because it was mentioned in the annotation for “The Likeness.”  And yes, I borrowed it from the library.

LOVED it.  I like a suspenseful mystery, and enjoyed the contemporary Irish setting.  This story of a detective whose childhood included the unsolved disappearance of two friends and his own lack of memory regarding the incident, set a perfect stage. Bob Ryan gets called back to his hometown when a girl is found murdered, not far from where he himself was found all alone 20 years before.

The relationship between Bob and his partner, Cassie, creates much of the energy in this story. Bob narrates, and the one quibble I have with this book is the Gothic-like “If only I’d known…” statements. Well, I appreciate being told that things won’t turn out perfectly, but I do find that repetitive refrain tiresome. It is with Cassie that things go especially badly.

I confess–when I read a mystery, I don’t try to follow the clues and solve the case. I just wait for it to unfold. I sensed that French revealed the story in a way that made sense (and would have made sense to the over-achievers who expect to solve the mystery on their own), and she made use of Bob’s blind spots for the reader to see what he would not.

This was just the kind of book I was seeking–I put off plenty of housework and even a few phone calls to friends and family to keep reading.

Even if you’re not usually a mystery reader, I might recommend this if you enjoy a story about people’s relationships when they’re put in a pressure cooker. It also has a feeling of those PBS and BBC Mystery series, where the detective and his/her assistant develop that relationship that propels the story into sublimity.

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