Thursday, February 10, 2011

In the Woods, by Tana French

When he was 12 years old, Adam Ryan and his two best friends, Peter and Jamie, disappeared in the woods near their homes; Adam was found after a few hours, covered with blood but generally unharmed. His friends were never found, and Adam had no memory of what happened.

Twenty-plus years later, Adam is an Irish homicide detective known as Rob Ryan. On the police force, only his partner Cassie Maddox knows his story. The two are close, verbally sparring at work, drinking together in the evenings, and often spending the night together on the same futon (but with no sexual activity). Then 12-year-old girl Katy Devlin is found murdered in the same woods where Adam/Rob's friends disappeared, and Rob and Cassie catch the case.

As they investigate , Rob and Cassie learn more about events around the disappearance of Peter and Jamie but at first make little progress in solving Katy's murder (they don't seem to be very good investigators). As the twin pressures of spending time in his home town and failing to solve Katy's case build, Rob starts to lose his grip. Because French foreshadows with an extremely heavy hand, we know things are going to end badly. In the end, however, they didn't end as badly as I expected (though readers who like everything to be wrapped up neatly may find the ending dissatisfying).

The writing at the beginning of the book is so lovely that I was disappointed as the book devolved into a rather average murder mystery. I'll read French's second book, but I can't help wondering whether mystery is really her genre.

Favorite passages:
Picture a summer stolen whole from some coming-of-age film set in small-town 1950s. This is none of Ireland's subtle seasons mixed for a connoisseur's palate, watercolor nuances within a pinch-sized range of cloud and soft rain; this is summer full-throated and extravagant in a hot pure silkscreen blue. This summer explodes on your tongue tasting of chewed blades of long grass, your own clean sweat, Marie biscuits with butter squirting through the holes and shaken bottles of red lemonade picnicked in tree houses.

The wood is all flicker and murmur and illusion. Its silence is a pointillist conspiracy of a million tiny noises--rustles, flurries, nameless truncated shrieks; its emptiness teems with secret life, scurrying just beyond the corner of your eye. Careful: bees zip in and out of cracks in the leaning oak; stop to turn any stone and strange larvae will wriggle irritably, while an earnest thread of ants twines up your ankle.

What I warn you to remember is that I am a detective. Our relationship with truth is fundamental but cracked, refracting confusingly like fragmented glass. It is the core of our careers, the endgame of every move we make, and we pursue it with strategies painstakingly constructed of lies and concealment and every variation on deception.

For a moment I was dizzied by the impulse to leave her there: shove the techs' hands away, shout at the hovering morgue men to get the hell out. We had taken enough toll on her. All she had left was her death and I wanted to leave her that, that at least. I wanted to wrap her up in soft blankets, stroke back her clotted hair, pull up a duvet of falling leaves and little animals' rustles. Leave her to sleep, sliding away forever down her secret underground river, while breathing seasons spun dandelion seeds and moon phases and snowflakes above her head. She had tried so hard to live.

No comments:

Post a Comment