In the Woods | Kicking off a Promising Detective Series

In the Woods
Tana French (2007)

First book in the Dublin Murder Squad series

If you ask me, police procedurals on American TV are a dime a dozen—dull, cliche-ridden wastes of time. On the other hand, set the murder in the United Kingdom, put a flawed detective with a tortured past on the case, have their story told with literary style and well-crafted prose, perhaps add a dimension of psychological thriller, and I’m eagerly along for the ride. So it was for the Jackson Brodie novels of Kate Atkinson (see my reviews for Case Histories, One Good Turn, and Started Early, Took My Dog here) and so it is with the Dublin Murder Squad series by Tana French. On a whim, I read In the Woods (the series’ debut novel) and that whim is going to cost me considerable hours of reading time—I’m hooked and look forward to tearing through the next five installments in the foreseeable future.

Irish detective Rob Ryan is assigned a new partner and a case that hits a bit too close to home. When he was 12, Rob (who then went by the name Adam) witnessed the brutal murder of two friends. He was found days later in the woods, bloodied, traumatized, and suffering from amnesia, unable to recall crucial details from the unsolved crime. Two decades later, when a girl is murdered in the same woods, Ryan and his partner Cassie Maddox catch the case, and he’s forced to revisit old ghosts while keeping his secret past from his colleagues. As the investigation develops (along with the working relationship between first-time partners Ryan and Maddox), Ryan struggles as the line blurs between personal and professional mysteries.

Author Tana French’s writing elevates story, dialog, and atmosphere to deliver a book that satisfies as a character drama wrapped in a mystery.


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