In the Woods by Tana French

I really tried to write this review without spoilers, but I failed.  So, the spoilers are in white text, just highlight them and you’ll be able to read them. In the Woods by Tana French is a mystery/detective/thriller novel that follows Rob Ryan , who used to be named James Ryan, and Cassie Maddox on the most important case of their detective careers.  A young girl is murdered in his old hometown and they hit dead end after dead end.  To top it all off, when Rob was a young boy, two of his friends disappeared in the same woods where they found the murder victim.  The only real clues left over from the old case are the blood that was found in Rob’s shoes and a hair clip.   The writing is beautiful!  I listened to the audiobook and the actor who voices Rob did a wonderful job.

This book has left me so conflicted. Rob made me angrier than any character I’ve read lately and I’m sure there are some really freaked out people on I-95 who saw me screaming at my car radio for him to stop being an ass and get over it.  Seriously, rarely has a main character, whom I am supposed to like, pissed me off the way Rob did.  I hated him.  I spent days going around saying things like, “God, Rob is being such a jerk right now.”  With some unsuspecting person asking me, “Who’s Rob?”  And me sheepishly responding, “Oh you know… just some guy in a book I’m reading right now.”

And then I felt so bad for him.  Never have I wanted to use so many foul words in a post before.  I’m mad at Rob, I’m mad at Tana French, I’m mad at Cassie, I’m mad at SPOILER Rosalind.  But any book that has elicited such a response in me has to be good, right?  I think so?

Highlight text below to for spoilers:

So I’m super pissed that we don’t learn anything about what actually happened to Rob, even though, TECHNICALLY, I know it makes a stronger novel because things are neat and tidy, but dammit, sometimes I really want something tidy. I thought the mystery was fairly well-played. SPOILER  That last scene with Rosalind and Cassie was INTENSE and really stressed me out. So yes, I liked it.  I mean, I hated every minute of it, but in a wonderful way.  Plus, I really can’t wait to get my hands on The Likeness even though SPOILER it doesn’t look like we’re ever going to learn anything about what really happened to James.  Jerk.

So go read this!: now | tomorrow | next week | next month | next year | when you’ve exhausted your TBR

Other reviews: Hey Lady! Watcha Readin’?, Caribousmom, Big A Little A, Care’s Online Book Club, books i done read, Stephanie’s Written Word, The Book Lady’s Blog, Firefly’s Book Blog, Book Addiction, Presenting Lenore, S. Krishna’s Books, Linus’s Blanket, Savidge Reads, Save Ophelia.

16 thoughts on “In the Woods by Tana French

  1. I read and reviewed this one last year and really loved it. Like you, I got immensely frustrated/angry with Rob for his dickish behavior, but as you said, it was kind of great to get so invested in the characters that I could feel that passionately. And the fact that some things are not tied up cleanly didn’t really bother me, because I figure French can always revisit them in future books should she choose.

    Also, The Likeness is AMAZING and even better than this one, so get ready!

  2. Thanks for the link! I didn’t get mad at Rob so much as at both him and Cassie. And not even mad, really, just a really strong desire to slap them around a little bit and yell “Stop being stupid! Both of you! Look at what you are doing! And consider what you are doing to me, namely, leaving me a wrung-out emotional wreck!”

    And, like you, I was annoyed at the ending, but I also can’t think of any other way to end it that would have lived up to the creepiness of the set-up. I mean, shoes filled with someone else’s blood? Eeesh! *shiver!*

  3. I have this one in my TBR stack and have been meaning to read it for a while — everyone seems to have a strong reaction to the novel, one way or another! I’ll admit it was hard not to highlight the white text — like pushing a button after someone shouts, “Don’t push that button!” — but I did refrain. I’ll have to move this book up soon!

  4. I read The Likeness and felt meh about it, so I don’t have much interest in this one. But this post cracked me up! I TOTALLY do the same thing w/ some novels (venting my anger at a character/author to random people who then think I’m nuts because it’s ‘just a book’). I’m still pissed at Tolstoy for something he decided to do in War & Peace, and I KNOW it’s only because he saw himself in one of the characters, so hmph. lol

  5. Finally! Someone else with whom I can vent! What the hell Tana French? The lead-in to the story – the first few pages about what happened to Rob is what made me pick up the book. And we get nothing? Blood only on the INSIDE of his shoes? COME ON! Potential for best horror ever.

    As for Rob, he reminded me of a really pathetic version of the guy from High Fidelity. Most of the time I wanted him to stop brooding and do something. Anything, for the love of god, that was worthwhile.

    I’m still upset at Tana but I will like her enough in a few months to try The Likeness.

  6. I read this one about a year ago and liked it, although I was disappointed by the ending as well. I thought it was pretty good until the end, and I liked how character-driven it was. But, I didn’t love it. Still, a pretty good read in the thriller genre, better-written than most. I enjoyed it but wished things had gone differently in the end.

  7. I loved this book. I am not really one for mysteries, so it really threw me for a loop when I enjoyed it so much. But I TOTALLY agree with your frustrations, and I hate to break it to you but they do not really get cleared up in The Likeness… that’s basically like a whole separate story. But still, The Likeness is better, I think, it’s wrapped up better and the mystery is crafted really well. so read it! 🙂

  8. I had the exact same reaction to this book as you did (although I didn’t mind Rob). I understand why



    French decided not to tell us what really happened in the woods all those years ago, but it made me so mad! It was like she just couldn’t think of it and decided to weasel her way out by opting for an open ending.

  9. fantastic review, I like how you did the spoilers in white 🙂 I saw this one at the bookshop and debated picking it up. I want to read it now, if only to hate Rob also…lol. It reminds me of Love in the Time of Cholera where I really disliked the central character but could not stop reading due to the beautiful writing.

  10. I just finished reading THE LIKENESS. I read IN THE WOODS a few weeks ago. They both are great. It’s weird…I liked Cassie so much more in the first one, even though she is the narrator of the second book, not the first. I do agree that Rob’s behavior in the first book is absolute;y devastating.

    The moment in the second book when Cassie calls Rob and then doesn’t talk to him but he knows who she is is AMAZING! I gasped out loud. I do think it is completely bizarre that she doesn’t really rap up things. Although the books are separate stories they are much more powerful read in sequence. She doesn’t really give one the full sense of the emotional impact of the Rob-Cassie relationship (or Operation Vestal) in the second book, although she does refer to it ( I thought that was sorta odd.)

    You do know a 3rd book is coming out in about 2 months (summer 2010) and it is all about MACKEY’s youth?? I doubt Cassey will even appear in it. I really hope she does another book with either Rob as a character or even better, showing Sam and Cassie married and working together. I’d also be cool with a book on the original Lexie and/or Justin.

  11. Loved the book. Hated Ryan by the end. but what’s with the black object that worker found on his shoe that Ryan refused to accept.

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