In the Woods by Tana French

About the Author

Tana French is an American-Irish writer and theatrical actress born in Vermont. Her debut novel In the Woods, a psychological mystery, won the Edgar, Anthony, Macavity, and Barry awards for best first novel. She lives in Dublin.


The premise of this book starts in the summer of 1984 as dusk approaches a small Dublin suburb and mothers begin to call their children home. But on this day, 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 12 year old is 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.

This book left me sad. Yes, it’s supposed to be a murder mystery but it turned out to be more than just that. This book left me devastated with so many unanswered questions and scars. There is a sense of loss after you realise what has happened to a few characters when this tragedy descends on them. My heart ached for the two children who never came home from the woods and how the tragedy of their disappearances left Rob unharmed but so messed up. It’s not just crime fiction but a story of people who carry on with their broken lives shouldering the unbearable burden of past trauma, the barbaric urges of the human race and missed chances to make things right. 

Tana French’s debut novel is class and slick and after reading 3 more novels of hers – I realised she has some themes she sticks to. Pasts that are gut wrenching, women that are defeated or sick in the head and men who are just as broken on the inside. This book is stellar – she draws out her characters, gives them stories that are unique and complex and in the midst of it, you tend to forget the murder and focus on the unfairness of life.