In the Woods by Tana French

The scene is an archeological dig in a wood outside a suburb of Dublin. The archeological team is working against time to explore the site before the building of a major motorway razes the wood and its history. Murder disturbs their progress: the twelve-year-old murder victim is found lying on an ancient slab of stone probably used in prehistoric sacrifice. The killer could be sending a vicious warning to her father, who organizes protests against the motorway; it could be an abusive family member–or it could be a repeat performance by a sinister serial killer. More than twenty years before, three children went in the wood and only one returned, terrified and bloody, recalling nothing. That boy is now the lead detective on the case. Rob Ryan keeps his past hidden from all except from his partner, Cassie Maddox, hoping to solve both mysteries and find if there is a connection between them.

What’s best about this novel is the depth and complexity of the realistic characters, especially the two detectives. We come to care about them and their close partnership and friendship. Rob thinks of his connection with Cassie: “I remembered her, only a few days before, reaching into my coat pocket for my lighter as we sat in the castle gardens; she hadn’t even broken off her sentence to do it and I had loved the gesture so much, loved the sure, unthinking ease of it, the taking for granted.” Can Rob and Cassie’s friendship survive the strain of closely examining the damage done by the past?

Author Tana French was born in the US and has lived in Ireland, Italy, and Malawi, Africa. An actor, French trained at Trinity College in Dublin. Instead of working at a proverbial café between theatre gigs, French often volunteers on archaeological digs instead. The inspiration for In the Woods came while volunteering on such an assignment. Her debut novel, In the Woods won French the 2008 Edgar Award.