In The Woods by Tana French

A murder detective, Rob, is summoned back to his hometown, the site of his own childhood nightmare, now wet with blood again. Wondering if the two cases are linked he tries to chip away at the impermeable wall holding in hellish memories.

I usually do not review books that I do not love because I seldom finish books that aren’t magic in the first fifty pages, but this book came recommended to me by a much-loved professor.  I not only trusted her tastes enough to finish this book but to continue on in the series.

This author has some of the best characterizations of any author. The main characters are multifaceted and complex while some of the background characters are well-crafted stock characters. Because of the good characterization, the story was easy to emotionally invest in. I was nauseated, livid, and melancholy on cue with the story.

I like to know the main character’s inner monologue and his coloring of every other character. Inner monologue is not very animated but I can appreciate a slower paced stream of consciousness.

When a book is disjointed I continued on with faith that it will all fit together. Incorporating the main character, Rob’s, haunted past was interesting, but leaving it an unrecoverable lose end is painfully unsatisfying. It was such an imaginative story it seems clumsy that it wasn’t woven in somehow. It is not my style preference to have books end with an admission of defeat, or an unknowable mystery.

I think this book was aiming for a psychological thriller. For half of the book, I thought there were supernatural elements. My undergraduate degree is in psychology and what was being described does not construe emotional distress to me. Visual and auditory hallucinations are not symptomatic of a panic attack. If it was supposed to be a flashback that was pointless because Rob never uncovers the mystery of his own victimization. About a quarter of this book was interesting but ultimately extraneous because Rob’s story was left unfinished.

Going forward in the series, the books do trim away the fat and have a more linear path. The endings are tying all components together neatly.

I’m at book three and each book gets more refined and better in craftsmanship. This book is only six out of ten. This book is great in raw imagination, but I felt like this was a draft and not a polished product. I do recommend the series, but this particular book was mediocre.

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