I say that I will read anything if the writing is good but I will be honest, scary books? They scare me. Tell me if the synopsis of of French’s “In the Woods” doesn’t freak you out a little: In neighborhood near Dublin, three children go into the woods to play. They miss dinner. Their mothers call for them. In the end, only one of the children is found, a boy, clawing a tree trunk, wearing blood-filled gym shoes. He is able to recall nothing that happened in the wood. Now, he is grown up, a policeman investigating a murder in that same area. Are the two connected? And what is going back going back going to do to that boy-man?
The characterization in this book was trippy, in a good way. It had me asking a lot of questions. And the author makes a lot of choices that, as a reader, made me angry, but as a writer, I found brave. Detective Rob Ryan says from the first pages, “I crave truth. And I lie” (French, 4). I knew from the beginning that the narrator is brimming with issues and far from reliable.
He is lovable but you want him to wake up and smell the coffee. I adored this description of himself: “Sophie and I went out once or twice…She informed me, matter-of-factly, that she was old enough to know the difference between intriguing and f***** up. You should go for younger women, she advised me, they can’t always tell” (French, 418-19)
(On another note, let’s be the type of women who can tell.)
All in all, Rob is messed up. He can’t remember what happened as a boy; he has major guilt issues; and he has a funny habit of making the truth fit his needs. You want him to figure it out. You want him to get it together and stop drinking so much vodka and to please get some sleep. Does he?
And the mystery of the children is haunting. Seriously haunting. When the writer was knee deep in too much detail, the mystery was what kept me going and reading. Even at night. When I promised myself, I wouldn’t read the book.
I guessed the ending. But if you know me or my family, you know my mom and I have a super power in this area. But there are two mysteries here, the new case and the old one and I only guessed the outcome of the newest case.
When it comes to what I learned from this writer: how to write from a point of view of a sometimes likable, sometimes unlikeable hero or anti hero, how to build a story around someone like that, how to go deep inside of someone, the heart of them and put it on paper. At times, the story was much too detail laden with things that were unnecessary. One more revision could not have hurt.
When I finished the book, I need to know more so I read an interview with the author. (If you want the link, ask me for it. I don’t want to put it here because it is definitely a spoiler.) After that, I gained respect for her and the choices she made. For the story alone, I give it three and a half stars. But the author’s explanation bumps it up to four.
Happy (scary) Reading,