In the Woods by Tana French

My Tana French love has moved from crush to full on love affair.  I just wrapped up “In the Woods”, which is the first novel in the Dublin Murder Squad series and I cannot gush enough about the brilliant craftsmanship of this book.  French has this amazing ability to let things unfold in a natural way, it’s never too slow or too quick, and the prose she uses just lands perfectly each time.

This particular installment revolved around Detective Ryan who was the sole survivor of a terribly tragedy when he was twelve.  He was in the woods (right?!) with his two best friends and they both go missing, presumed dead.  Ryan is found clinging to a tree with bloody shoes and zero recollection of what occurred.  Flash forward twenty years and he’s on the murder squad.  He and his partner Cassie have been tasked with investigating a murder of a 12 year old girl who was found right next to the woods where Detective Ryan was discovered decades before.  This book could have taken MANY predictable paths and it would have been a good book… It could be about Ryan discovering what happened to him, or about redemption or even some kind of story where he learns to love himself and others.  This book could have even delved into the idea that there is a serial killer at large.  All would be okay but have been done before.  French takes the road less traveled and she builds this taut and unflinching look at human character, warts and all, and she doesn’t blink at the idea that survivors are not these unsung heroes.  They are flawed and troubled and very nearly eaten alive each day with the simple task of living.  Had this been real life, Ryan would be the subject of a profile in courage for his making it through such a tragedy but French shows us the true humanity that goes with such a major event.

Every single time I thought I knew where this book was going, I was flat wrong.  French has such a grasp on the psychology of being human and dealing with trauma and stress it’s truly astounding.  She is a true master of the craft of storytelling.

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