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Monday, July 22, 2013

Review: In the Woods by Tana French

In the Woods (Dublin Murder Squad, #1)In the Woods by Tana French
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is another book in my 2013 TBR Pile Challenge, and it has the distinction of being the first book I'm not glad to have made myself read this year. I'd been looking forward to a taut, psychological thriller. Instead, I wound up tangled in a narrative mess.

In the 1980's, two children vanished in the woods in Knocknaree, Ireland. A third child was found with blood in his shoes, and no memory of what happened. Then, over 20 years later, a girl is found dead, and there's a sliver of physical evidence linking the crimes. And the boy, now Detective Robert Ryan and all grown up, is the one assigned to the case.

The premise is intriguing. The follow-through, not so much. We're treated to every false lead, every tedious detail, every single bit of evidence that doesn't pan out. In the end, it's Detective Ryan's sudden flash of insight that breaks the case, and then the book plods on for another 100 pages.

If the idea was to steer people away from wanting to be police detectives, well done, French. By the 100-page mark, I didn't even care about the dead little girl anymore. And it wasn't because I cared about Detective Ryan's angst more. The interpersonal drama takes the forefront in the book, and it's the kind that irritates me most. Detective Ryan's problems all seem to stem from his stupidity or stubbornness.

There's something of a twist in the plot at the end, one that Detective Ryan plays right into, while I read on wondering how this idiot ever made detective. He misses some very obvious signs that a person is manipulating him, fails to question several points, and, in the end, lets a dangerous person get away with it. I understand this happens in real cases all the time, but, if I wanted to be immersed in the reality of tedious and frustrating work, I'd go back to working retail. I read books to escape the tedium, not to be reminded of it and shown how things I didn't even know about it suck.

This is the second thriller I've read this year that's been highly praised, but that I've found tedious and uninteresting. It seems it's just not the genre for me.


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