Sunday, October 19, 2008

In the Woods - Tana French

Ok, I know, it's Sunday afternoon, and I read-a-thonned you all to death yesterday/this morning, and you don't expect to hear from me until tomorrow morning, but I'm posting out of rotation due to my fluttery about In the Woods.

LET US TALK ABOUT THIS BOOK!!

Ok, for those of you who played along in the Read-a-thon OR woke up Sunday morning confused as to why I had 24 new posts and then read them all, you know that I read Tana French's thriller In the Woods for, like twelve hours (mostly the dark ones) and that I spent much of it hunkered down next to my husband's sleeping bulk because I was too scared to go read by myself in the room-with-windows.

So, when Rob was little, two of his friends vanished whilst the three of them frolicked in the woods and Rob was later found catatonic and covered in blood not his own. I know. Some twenty-five years later, he's a murder detective and is sent to investigate the death of a child in his old neighborhood. His partner is the small, sprightly Cassie, and the two of them banter often.

And here's the thing - it was awesome. Usually when an author (esp a young one) tries to be this fresh and sassy, they're walking around naked. Fortunately in this case, the Emperor (Emperess?) has clothes. I give French an 'exceeds expectations' for writing style. As for the plot, most of it was all witty-banter-and-clues which, really, not scary. MOST OF THIS BOOK WAS NOT SCARY! But I don't do well with dark, and I don't do well with looming doom, and doom LOOMED from about page 7. So I was scared.

So, for those of you who don't want to peruse my spoiler, I was all set to give In the Woods eight and half, maybe nine caterpillars, but I was totally dissatisfied with the end, so I would have to knock off, like, three.

Ok, now I'm going to spoiler the hell out of the book because I want to know your thoughts, so if you haven't read it, go do so now! And then come back here and talk to me. SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER!!!!

WTF? And we solve the murder and it was X and Y person and the end, let's not touch the mystery of the missing children. THAT WAS WHAT WAS SCARING THE EVER-LIVING HELL OUT OF ME!!! Straight-up murder mysteries? Not a problem. Psychopaths? A little worse, but nothing I can't handle. But I totally thought there was going to be this whole other mystical element to do with the missing kids and Rob's memories and junk (what is UP with the parallel slashes on his shirt?), and THAT is what had me wetting myself. I was afraid for no reason!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I mean, everything else was stellar! The Rob-Cassie thing? Winsome! Charming! Occasionally over-the-top but in a self-aware, self-deprecating manner! And then the whole time, I'm all, if she makes this a love story I'm never reading another female author again. But then she did, and I was all, Rob and Cassie whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!? *sob, nose-blow* Because she did it right, and that is what actually happens in relationships. One or the other of you is too effed up to behave like an adult, and there aren't always second chances.

I really, really liked ItW and I'm all set to like The Likeness (which, apparently, follows Cassie but does NOT touch the wood-children), but I feel a bit cheated. I think Trish and Jill are with me on this. Weigh in, folks.
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Second Opinions (dere's lots)
Live and Let Di
Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin'?
Fizzy Thoughts
Both Eyes

29 comments:

Bybee said...

I skimmed your spoiler because I haven't read it yet...walked by it at the bookstore today, so it is here in Korea. Is this a ten caterpillar book?

mommachelle said...

Okay, so I read this book quite a while ago. I loved it. And hated it. Bi-polar review. I couldn't believe there was no explanation about the missing kids in the end. I don't know if that freaked me out more or just had me totally p.o.'d. But when he was sleeping in the woods...that just plain FREAKED ME OUT.

I didn't realize French wrote another book. Currently, I'm crawling through The Other. I'll have to look it up when I manage to finish Guterson.

Jill said...

I totally agree - loved the self aware banter and the writing in general, but hated that they didn't resolve the old mystery. I guess that's part of her genius? Leaving us with something to talk about? All the same, I feel annoyed.

Also, was I the only one who started to wonder if some creepy half bird, half man, half bear slash rodent thing killed his friends? And yes, I realize that makes more than just one normal sized "thing" but that's my point! It sounded giant. And scary.

Amanda said...

Oh I totally understand! But I was lucky that I knew there is a sequel/sorta book out and maybe one of her books will finally solve that mystery. Darn her! But regardless I'd still be reading her sequel but seriously...WHAT HAPPENED TO THE KIDS??

Stephanie said...

I really loved this authors writing style and was a bit dissapointed that the whole Rob thing was never explained, but overall I still found it to be a great read and have The Likeness on my sidetable as I write!

Jessica said...

Oh! "In the Woods" is my favorite book so far of 2008! I loved "The Likeness" too; in fact I think it might even be a bit better.

I was frustrated that French didn't resolve the cold case, but I also totally respected the decision and I think it made it a better book. One of the reasons I think this book stands out so much is that it breaks some rules of the genre. Can you still remember details of other detective novels you've read months or years later?

Anyway I reviewed both, and I made a big effort to avoid spoilers, so you can check it out if you like: http://botheyes.wordpress.com/2008/09/04/two-for-one-review-in-the-woods-and-the-likeness/

trish said...

Raych! Let's talk.

Okay, first of all, the mystery of the missing kids! ACK! I think the author was purposefully vague, which made it even creepier. Was it human? Was it not human? Why did it leave Rob (or Adam, at that time, right?) alive?

And the foreshadowing! Holy heck! I've never seen an author use it so much or so well.

And why was Rob such a douche bag to Cassie? By the time the end of the book came, I thought Rob got all he deserved. It might be true to life, but he was no less of a douche bag.

I think the Rob/Cassie thing upset me more than not knowing what happened with the kids. But I liked Cassie so I felt kinda protective, I guess.

Thoughts?

Tara said...

I felt much the same and was quite disappointed that the kids mystery was not wrapped up. She did spend an awful lot of time on it. Despite this, still a good book and worth reading. Read The Likeness. I liked it better.

jenclair said...

I love French's style and enjoyed the book immensely, but hated the Rob/Cassie thing at the end. I'm wondering if French will get back to Rob and put us out of our misery wondering about Jamie and Peter.

I was so pleased to find Cassie was the main character in The Likeness and liked it even better than In the Woods. French's next book is about Frank (from The Likeness), but I didn't care much for his character.

Stephanie said...

I agree. I liked the Rob/Cassie thing & I was upset about not finding out about the kids. One thing that really intrigued me was the hint that maybe Adam/Ryan did it. He did tell us he's a liar. Think there's anything to that?

Stephanie said...

I agree. I liked the Rob/Cassie thing & I was upset about not finding out about the kids. One thing that really intrigued me was the hint that maybe Adam/Ryan did it. He did tell us he's a liar. Think there's anything to that?

Dewey said...

Let's see how to put this. I minded not finding out about the missing kids for my own satisfaction, but I didn't mind it for story purposes. As you said about Rob and Cassie happening RIGHT, I think that in real life, mysteries often stay unsolved.

But I really wanted to know.

Anonymous said...

Am I the only one that thinks the object that the workman found at the end of the book means that the woods were haunted by an ancient creature? The artifact had a half-man/half-stag on it. I took this to mean that was what the children encountered in the wood and why Adam was too terrified to ever let his brain remember what he saw. Anyone else?

Mage said...

I read this for school. I know this is an old post but I feel like commenting anyway. The way whats her name (the woman who was raped by the three teens in the woods) described the booming laughter in the woods still makes me shiver. Im writing this with tingles running down my spine as I imagine the laughter getting louder and louder, filling the clearing

Anonymous said...

TOTAL SPOILER - STOP READING IF NOT THORUGH THE BOOK. I agree with Anonymous from Nov 21, 2008: What killed Jaime and Peter was related to Cernunnos, an ancient Celtic god that manifested in the form of a man with antlers. He had yellow eyes when appearing as a huge stag. Per my totally amateur Internet research, Cernunnos dwelled near ancient stone ruins (i.e. the castle) and was the God of many things, including virility and nature. It was a green, gorgeous summer, almost intoxicating. Jonathan Devlin said he was under some sort of influence during the rape, and heard a huge animal or animal-man laughing in the woods. The 3 vertical tears in Adam's shirt could have been antlers.

The "flapping of wings" reference still has me baffled, but Cernunnos was also supposedly the guide between this world and the next. Jaime and Peter did say the wanted to stay in the castle "forever. . .".

So, perhaps French did not leave this old mystery quite so unsolved.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the previous post. I hadn't heard of that Celtic god- I will google it afterwards. But when Ryan is finally remembering, he says the 3 of them are running towards the river and then sees these eyes that sounded owl like or catlike (I don't remember the specifics) Also, when they talk to the old lady about Katy, the same old lady who was around when the kids disappeared, she said her mother thought it was a descendent of Pan, she referred to some creature which shocks Ryan a little. My only question is why Ryan says he lies, I don't really recall him lying (obviously other than changing his name). Any thoughts?

Anonymous said...

Adam says he lied because he's the one responsible for his friends death. That's why he doesn't want to believe it when Katy's killer is revealed and labeled a psychopath, because he is just like her. That's why they had such a strong connection throughout the book.

Just my opinion

Katie said...

I think that the author left the mystery of the kids vague, but she hinted that Rob was a psychopath and he was the one who killed his two friends. For example, Rob used to lie about a lot of things such as having a twin brother, he also says he just "couldn't feel sympathy for Damien," and Rob says that he knew that Jonathan did not kill the kids the whole time. A lot of things were really mysterious, like why he did not consult Cassie after making her feel horrible...or why he was such an asshole to his roommate Heather. What are your thoughts? I am a little frustrated because I did want an answer, but I do think that French possibly revealed this as an answer.

Celia said...

I just finished this book. It took me awhile, because it's so slow in the beginning, but I liked it. I figured out Rosalind was involved with the murder from the beginning. The author didn't fool me there once.
I think the murder mystery of the two kids overshadowed the murder of Katy Devlin, so I was REALLY disappointed that she didn't resolve that at the end. There's clever writing, but that just seemed dumb to me because that was virtually what the whole novel was about.
I do have a theory though. I'm thinking it was some kind of wild animal that killed the other two and ate them which is why their body wasn't found. Adam got away simply because the animal (possibly a hyena or a bear) wasn't hungry anymore.
The one part of the book that scared the CRAP out of me was when Johnathan Devlin was talking about the rape and how they heard that weird noise afterwards like someone was laughing. Creepy.

Anonymous said...

I just got around to reading this book...there are so many unanswered questions, like Adam telling us how Peter made them stop picking on that kid but later when Adam goes home his mother tells him that he was actually the one that made everyone stop. I feel like I'm pretty good at figuring things out but this book had me all over the place. As for Adam actually killing his friends, I thought about that too but then how do you explain the manly laughter coming from the trees after the rape and after the kids took off? You think that was a 12 year old? All over the place on this one! But I did read where the author says that Adams character is far from over. Can't wait!

Anonymous said...

I am SOOOOOOO confused. what the heck happened to Jamie and Peter and Cassie should have ended up with Adam NOT Sam but i guess it all makes sense he was a douche to Cassie :P but i really hated the endng and I dont think Adam killed his freinds....but i think he know who or what did.

Anonymous said...

I guess I'm a few years behind everyone else in reading this book, but I'm certainly with all of you who are disappointed in not knowing what ever happened to Peter and Jamie, however, that's not what really bothered me. What bothered me more was the fact that Cassie and Rob's partnership/friendship was ruined by one night sleeping together. I'm sure it's happened plenty of times that male/female co-workers have slept together and it didn't ruin both the working relationship AND the friendship, especially to the extent that it did. That was to me the most devastating thing about the ending.

When he calls her and and tells her he's sorry and that he loves her and she doesn't even reply..Then she intentionally doesn't hang up so he can hear Cassie and Sam go back to bed...Heart-wrenching. I loved it and hated it at the same time. Probably just what the author intended and I will be reading The Likeness.

Sheila (Bookjourney) said...

Ok - you may htink this is spam becuase why would someone comment on your three year old post?

Simple... I just finished this ne on audio and am currently working on my review... as I am writing it I felt as you did... what the..... happened to the ending? Then I thought maybe because I was listening to it on audio that maybe I missed something important so thought I would check out to see if anyone else had thoughts about the ending... thank you for letting me know it was not something I missed- it just was not there.

Copymom said...

Well, if Sheila thought her post was old, here comes another one...
THIS BOOK IS GOING IN THE RECYCLING! I was screaming at it last night at 12:30am when I was searching for "the missing chapter" to tell me what happened to Peter and Jamie.
When Rob had to slam on the breaks and wondered what kind of animal ran in front of his car, I thought the storyline was going to go all "werewolf/vampire" on me; but I held out. Hell, I would have taken a werewolf (even though I've had it up to "here' with the Twilight crap), just to have an answer!
We need to get ahold of Tana French and have her explain herself!

Anonymous said...

What copy mom said! I just finished the book & NEED an answer! That's why I'm searching the Internet. There were so many little leads and loose ends...I'd be cool with some of them, but with so many, the book felt unfinished to me. So disappointed! I feel like French either didn't know herself or was purposely setting us up for a follow-up book. The story spent so much time on that story/mystery! Ach - frustrated! I'm supposing that I'm meZmt to draw my own conclusions, but I read books so that I don't have to write the end! And the Rosalind part was so obvious...

Anonymous said...

I really like the "Rob's a psychopath" theory. He lies from a young age to his parents and friends, and possibly even to himself. He sends mixed signals to manipulate people. He is threatened by other men and jerks women around. He also describes how he's an empty suit, and people just promote him to positions of power because he looks the part. Like Rosalind, he's able to project an appearance that appeals to people, and he seems somewhat conscious of it.

Wonder if Cassie realizes what he is by the end. He says that she "looked right through me" at one point......my only question is, if he was this way, why did he fall for Rosalind so easily? And is the implication here that socio/psychopaths are so deeply damaged that they are not even aware of what they are? Or that Rob is such a skilled liar that he's manipulated even us?

Anonymous said...

Also, as an addendum to the comment I submitted earlier today, maybe Ryan killed Jamie and Peter because of the kiss. You know, the one where Jamie kissed him in the castle in the woods, right before his memory goes completely blank and he can't recall anything else...it fits his behavioral patterns because he is most dishonest to himself when he's talking about the women he's been intimate with.

Nancy said...

I have read this book for the second time, years apart, and I have come to the conclusion (i need to have a conclusion to get it out of my head), that Jamie & Peter were killed by Cernonnus, the protector of the woods in Celtic mythology. Adam was saved from human sacrifice as a warning to others to keep clear of the woods.Twenty years later, the first born of a past trespasser in the woods, Jonathon, has acquired the evil that somewhat duplicates another sacrifice by his daughter to another daughter. I think that the haunted woods had control the whole time, Katy's murder being another attempt to rid the woods of human soiling...human destruction. Maybe the "Green Man" is sending man a message of his mishandling of our natural environment. I may have gone off on a tangent, but I feel that is the only way to connect both crimes. Please let me know what you think...

D'Lee said...

D'Lee wrote...

These postings could possibly go on: either forever or until we hold down Tana French and force her to "pay up" on alluding to continuing with the Ryan character, ie. tying up loose ends on the 20 yr. old mystery "In The Woods". I'm amused at the references to Cernonnus and Pan, and all those other intellectual, mythological possibilities...you did work hard to finish Ms. French's "literary mystery"! Jeez, when is the last time any of you worked so hard on someone else's book? I know I've never, this is my first time and hopefully my last. I'm reading for PLEASURE, ENJOYMENT, to help me fall asleep, even. When I purchase a book for enjoyment purposes, a murder mystery, I want the d_ _ _ mystery solved! If I like to read about unsolved mysteries, I'll read True Crime novels or the newspaper! I don't want to have to work hard for the finish, look up Celtic myths, re-read passages and skim the whole book, read blog postings, read the last two pages over and over. Be Smart Tana give us another book to spend our time and money on that finally tells us what happened to Jamie and Peter. You've already received our money for "In The Wood" and you've wasting our money 'cause we are re-reading "Woods" when we could be buying and reading a smart new novel that also reveals the mystery of the disappearance of Ryan's two childhood friends. Just think of the "hype"!

April 16, 2014 (frost on the hyacinths)