Sunday, May 6, 2012

In the Woods: Tana French

This book combines elements of two different types of mystery novels: the police procedural and the psychological thriller. The psychological component dominates, and this type of mystery is not my usual choice. At times it kept me off-balance, not sure what direction the story was going. I don't like to tell much of the plot in reviews, so as not to spoil the fun for the reader, but it is difficult to point out either pros or cons in this novel without revealing some crucial plot details.

I liked the way the story is told, through one of the detectives in charge of the case. We only know his side of it, what he experiences. He is a damaged and confused person.

A quote:
I remember that moment because, if I am honest, I have them so seldom. I am not good at noticing when I’m happy, except in retrospect. My gift, or fatal flaw, is for nostalgia. I have sometimes been accused of demanding perfection, of rejecting heart’s desires as soon as I get close enough that the mysterious impressionistic gloss disperses into plain solid dots, but the truth is less simplistic than that. I know very well that perfection is made up of frayed, off-struck mundanities. I suppose you could say my real weakness is a kind of long-sightedness: usually it is only at a distance, and much too late, that I can see the pattern.
This type of introspection by our narrator is what makes the story so engaging.

The protagonist, Rob Ryan, is a policeman in the Dublin Murder Squad. He has a female partner that he is close friends with, and they both have events from their past that color their actions today. (As we all do, but these are particularly traumatic.) The crime is a murder of a child, and there an unsolved case of missing children from many years before that took place in the same location. The events from Rob's past intertwine with the current case. The plot gets more and more complex.

The book is longish (over 400 pages) and the pacing is sometimes slow. There were points in the story when I was wondering when we were going to get somewhere. This is realistic in a police procedural, but is drawn out even more by the side trips into Rob's past and their link to this case. For the most part, though, the length did not bother me and the writing kept me involved.

The characters were intriguing, although only the main characters were fleshed out. I can't say I found either one of the main characters very likable, but I was interested in the outcome. Character-driven stories are my cup of tea, so I was happy to continue through Rob's discourses and get a murder mystery on the side. So, for me, this was a good, engrossing book.

I would recommend this book with a few reservations. There is resolution to the crime (at least the crime they are investigating). Overall, however, the ending is extremely ambiguous and I came out of the book feeling sad, downbeat. If you are looking for an upbeat story for entertainment, this isn't it.

I did read some negative reviews (only after I read the book), and I will admit they point out some valid aspects: There are times when the narrator is very annoying. And the actual solution to the mystery is easily predictable for anyone who reads a lot of crime fiction. The length of the story is a downside if you are looking more for action and resolution and are less into characterization.

The story of the Dublin Murder Squad continues but, as I understand it from reading the author's site and reviews of other books by the author, each book has a different main character.  This certainly would keep the series fresh, but for some readers (I am one of them) might be a disappointment.

Will I read the next book, The Likeness?  Yes, I think so. If only to find out if that one is just as gripping. All of the books in this series are long, over 400 pages, quite a commitment, but worth it if you are enjoying the journey it takes you on.

A couple of links to other reviews:
A favorable review with links to lots of other reviews. I love the vocabulary area.
A C+ review at Kittling Books

If you would like a link to your review of this book included on this post, put the link in a comment and I will add it.

This counts as one of my books for the following challenges:
Mt. TBR Challenge
Read Your Own Books Challenge
New Author Challenge
1st in a Series Challenge
A-Z Challenge
Mystery & Suspense Reading Challenge
Spring Reading Challenge

1 comment:

Peggy Ann said...

I have one of these books on my shelf and still have to get to it to read. Great review and now I think I need to bump it up on my reading list!