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In the Woods    by Tana French order for
In the Woods
by Tana French
Order:  USA  Can
Viking, 2007 (2007)
Hardcover, CD
* *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

Archeologists are working at a site near Dublin when they make a surprising discovery which they immediately report to the police: the body of a white female, 'ten to thirteen ... No ID. There's a key in her pocket, like a house key, but that's it. Her head's smashed in ... She's fully dressed, but it looks like she was probably raped ... she's been dead somewhere around thirty-six hours, {... but she} was killed somewhere else, probably kept for a day or so and then dumped.'

Rob Ryan and Cassie Maddox, detectives from the Dublin Murder Squad, are dispatched to the scene and begin their investigation. They quickly discover this is neither an ordinary nor simple case. In fact, for Ryan this is a particularly troubling case, overflowing with peculiarities and coincidences that remind him too much of an incident that happened during the summer of 1984.

It was then that two boys and a girl entered the woods surrounding their neighborhood of Knocknaree, but the children did not come home at dusk and police began a massive search. Later, only one of those children was found later by police. And that child - young Rob Ryan - was found in a nearly catatonic condition, wearing blood-filled sneakers and holding onto a tree. Young Rob could not recall any details about what happened to him that day, and the case of his missing friends remained unsolved.

Now, all of the dark and shrouded past intrudes upon the present as Ryan and Maddox team up to investigate a brutal murder that seems to have happened in the exact same location as the 1984 incident. And what Ryan is about to discover - about himself and the past - may be more than he can handle.

In the Woods - Tana French's first novel - moves along at a carefully structured pace, allowing plenty of time for the singular, complex characterizations that are the strength of French's writing. As a slowly developing psychological thriller and police procedural, In the Woods will attract plenty of impressed readers - like this reviewer - who will savor the author's controlled craftsmanship. We will also look forward to French's next entry into the field.

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