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In the Woods

A Novel
Narrated by: Steven Crossley
Series: Dublin Murder Squad, Book 1
Length: 20 hrs and 24 mins
4 out of 5 stars (13,348 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

As dusk approaches a small Dublin suburb in the summer of 1984, mothers begin to call their children home. But on this warm evening, three children do not return from the dark and silent woods. When the police arrive, they find only one of the children. He is gripping a tree trunk in terror, wearing blood-filled sneakers and unable to recall a single detail of the previous hours.

Twenty years later, the found boy, Rob Ryan, is a detective on the Dublin Murder Squad and keeps his past a secret. But when a 12-year-old girl is found murdered in the same woods, he and Detective Cassie Maddox (his partner and closest friend) find themselves investigating a case chillingly similar to the previous unsolved mystery. Now, with only snippets of long-buried memories to guide him, Ryan has the chance to uncover both the mystery of the case before him and that of his own shadowy past.

©2007 Tana French (P)2007 Penguin Audio, a member of Penguin Group (USA), Inc.

Critic Reviews

"[An] ambitious and extraordinary first novel...rank it high." (The Washington Post)

“Part whodunit, part psychological thriller, and wholly successful...French’s plot twists and turns will bamboozle even the most astute reader.... A well-written, expertly plotted thriller.” (NPR) 

In the Woods is as creepily imaginative as it gets.” (USA Today)    

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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    622
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    348

Performance

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    3,247
  • 3 Stars
    1,084
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    299
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    170

Story

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  • 2 Stars
    583
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    318

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Very mixed feelings (semi-spoilers included)

First, the narration was very good. I would listen to him again.

Second, the first half of the book was also very good even with the overwritten parts. I wanted to know very much what happened in both crimes. I also liked the main characters, and I loved the relationship between the main characters.

Third, the second half of the book really changed my pleasure in listening to the book. The anger and animosity coming from our main character, Rob, was so incongruous with how he had been I was thrown. A very large part of the book that I had been enjoying was the friendship between Cassie and Rob, and once that was taken away, I did not enjoy the book as much.

Fourth, so much of the book was unnecessary and irrelevant that I found myself drifting for long moments (especially during the second half of the book).

Fifth, the conclusion was ridiculous and unresolved and frustrating.

It was almost like two people wrote this book.

138 of 145 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Lesley
  • Seattle, WA, United States
  • 07-18-07

Detection with a Difference

In the Woods is a police procedural on the surface. A girl is murdered, and the protagonist and his partner try to find the killer. Underneath, however, it's the story of that protagonist, Detective Rob Ryan, and his attempts to know and overcome his own buried memories.

On the procedural front, there's everything a reader would expect from a modern detective novel: squad-room characters, a grumpy supervisor, the working relationship of Rob Ryan and his partner, Cassie Maddox. There is also suspense, some red herrings, some authentic leads, and an investigation that gives readers a look into the political and personal worlds of the suburb where the murder takes place.

By itself, this would have been satisfying enough, but In the Woods goes a step further. Rob Ryan, like many other modern detectives, has an ongoing problem. Inspector Morse had alcohol, Barbara Havers has her weight and shyness, but Rob Ryan's in a worse spot: he knows he escaped a horrible situation that presumably killed two of his childhood friends.

But unlike other detectives' problems, this one doesn't just get in Rob's way as he tries to solve the crime: his psychological state is the major part of the story. Parts of In the Woods are therefore quite depressing. Sometimes you want to strangle the guy--why did he DO that? What the heck is wrong with him? And then you remember: after what happened to him, he can't be all there.

In the Woods doesn't offer easy answers to this major story arc. For that, I applaud the author, because trauma that deep can't be solved with a sudden, triggered breakthrough. There's a start toward normality for Rob, but it's only a start.

I wouldn't mind seeing Rob again, but I don't expect him to be more normal next time. If anything, he might be in worse shape. The narrator did a fine job, with the exception of some female voices being a bit forced. Highly recommended if you're looking for a fresh, different detective novel.

183 of 195 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

Loooong

I really like the baseline story of this book, but my goodness, it was painfully long.. About 3 or 4 hours longer than it had to be. I feel like the book would've been more of a page turner, concentrated with the good stuff w/o the meaningless extraneous fluff. Also, after investing soooo much time, it didn't resolve like you'd think it would. I can't get those 20+ hours of listening back :(

11 of 11 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

A near-flawless audiobook (but for one thing...)

One of the best-written and best read combinations around. I put off reading Tana French for a long time because I've been suckered too often, but when I was barely 1/4 way through Part One (of 3), I sat down and ordered the next two books she has written. The writing is THAT good. The story is elegant and moving and convincing, and the characters are more-real than most of the people in your own life. Steven Crossley has an amazing, rich and varied voice, an almost-beautiful thing to hear.

Here comes the flaw. This is a book which takes place in Ireland, in small town Ireland, amongst working class Irish people. ALL of them are Irish, but NONE of their accents are. The first-person narrator explains away his English accent by conveniently spending his teen years in English boarding school, but what of everyone else? It might be a sin for an English actor to attempt an Irish accent and do it badly, and I do love Crossley's voice, but surely there are Irish narrators looking for work? I've enjoyed many other Irish novels read by Irish readers -- in fact it is one reason I choose an audiobook over the print version sometimes. So, the English reader loses a star for this otherwise brilliant book.

149 of 161 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Cannot Recommend Highly Enough

Never have I given, to my friends or in the few reviews I have done here, a 5 star review. I cannot say enough about this book, and I really can't say much without it being a spoiler. I was amazed at the quality of the writing; tight, suspensful, well-rounded characters that you really cared about as well as vivid detailed descriptions of the countryside. I suspect that the "first novel" appellation may turn out to be false, and that this is written under a psuedonom (the writer is Tana French). Whatever, the book is a sitting in the car in the driveway, taking the Mp3 player into the house and listening during dinner book. I was unable to put it down. The author foreswears cliches and even the most jaded mystery reader will enjoy the twists and turns as our Detective protagonist trys to explore the depths of his boyhood memory to solve this modern day case. A fantastic book. If this author is really a newcomer, I await breathlessly the next book from Tana French.

101 of 110 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

Interesting premise.. and that was it

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

Not if I want to keep them as friends. This book started out really dark and creepy, and then went nowhere.

If you’ve listened to books by Tana French before, how does this one compare?

My first, and last.

Which scene was your favorite?

The book started out really interesting. Three children go into the woods, two are missing and the one that is found can't remember anything. It started out really well but unfortunately the main character turned into the biggest wimp I've ever seen.

It's as if the author was handed the premise of the story by a friend (or better author) and then went on to write a book after it - which was not nearly as good or clever as the original idea.

Do you think In the Woods needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

It needed a follow up as there were unanswered questions in this book. But the truth is, the main character is such a dork I have no interest in seeing where his pathetic life goes. When you write a story about detectives and can make them anything you want, at least make them interesting. People don't want to read books about people who are dull.

Any additional comments?

I thought the reader did a fine job with what he had to work with.

Spolier alert:

There were some really unbelievable parts. A murder occurs and they don't get around to searching all the buildings nearby for 30 days - hadn't occurred to them apparently? So essentially this is a book about the worst detectives ever. Oh and a love story forced into the middle of it, apparently a requirement if you want a certain segment of the population to even crack to cover. Also the main character accuses a man of molestation of children, and then is seen having a cigarette with him at the end of the book - like they're chums. Sure no harm.. all is forgiven. I would think there would be some lingering resentment there.

This book couldn't decide if it was going to be horror, suspense, romance, or drama, so it tried all of the above. Look if you're Stephen King you can sometimes pull it off, but the characters have to be likable. They're not.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Brilliant!

After listening to 75+ Audible books over the past 2 years, I can honestly say "In the Woods" ranks right up there among my top favorites. (It is also the only book I have bothered to write a review for.) The reader is fantastic and the story is gripping. Some Audible reviewers have complained about an unsatisfying ending. I totally disagree. I thought the ending was tight and all major conflicts were resolved at the end of the story. You won't be able to stop listening to this one. I can't recommend it enough!

57 of 64 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

Don't Get It

I think there should be a law against writing a mystery without actually solving it. This book took 20+ hours to read. It starts out relaying a story about 3 twelve year old children in Dublin who go into the woods to play, and only one of them is ever seen again. 464 pages later, the book ends and I still don't know what happened to the two kids who disappeared.

I also dislike it when I hate a book that everyone seems to love. I didn't actually hate In the Woods - at least not nearly as much as I hated The Night Circus and Gone Girl - but I didn't like it either. It was Tana French's first book and it won every award it was up for, including the Edgar. I just saw it on a list of the best books by 1st time authors in the last 50 years, along with Dr. Zhivago and Bonfire of the Vanities. So I obviously missed something.

Parts of the book were entertaining if highly implausible. The author does a great job of describing Dublin in the early 2000s. And some of the secondary characters are interesting.

The secondary mystery - the one that was actually solved - took forever to solve and the resolution was so obvious, from the moment the ultimate brains behind the operation was introduced. The book is narrated from the perspective of the main character looking back over the events. We are supposed to believe that this is a bright guy and good at his job, yet he makes mistake after mistake, including being totally taken in by the main person behind the secondary murder. It was so obvious that the person was a sociopath, and a very annoying sociopath at that, yet the main character seemed totally charmed, and based on the narration, the author apparently thinks the reader would also be charmed. Either the author needed to dial way back on the sociopath vibe, or admit that her primary detective was terrible at their job. I think we are supposed to chalk the detective's blind spot regarding the ultimate villain up to the fact that this murder is intertwined in the original murder that happened 20 years earlier, which the detective was a major participant in, and that was freaking him out.

Clues were mentioned and then ignored. Then when the big "aha" clue came, the one that allowed the detective to figure out who actually committed the murder, it comes out of the blue and "how" the detective figured out the significance of the clue is never explained.

I've liked Steven Crossley's narration on other books, I think of him as Simon Prebble-lite. But his style was too heavy for this book and I think one of the reasons the ultimate bad guy was so obvious was the narration for that character.

My daughter convinced me to finish this book and read the next in the series. I usually share her taste in books and she liked In the Woods and loved the next book in the series. I have my serious doubts though.

11 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Jan
  • Galax, VA, United States
  • 03-14-12

Looking for the Next Lee Child?

I'm always on the lookout for multiple book authors like Child, John Sanford, Crais and even Clancy and Grisham. Judging from this first book, Ms. French could be next.

This book was a nice break from the American, everything ties up neatly in the end approach. The characters are intriguing and flawed, and ultimately pay the price (and that's the good guy), but oh so compelling, the realpolitik is (gasp) realistic, the story complex and engaging.

The reader was awesome, crafting words and accents with care, precision and art. Definitely a pleasure and a lovely change of pace to listen to an English accent.

As other reviewers have said, I cleaned the kitchen much longer, took the long way home day after day and stayed up late multiple times to get to the end of this one.

First novels by great authors are one of the rarest and greatest pleasures in reading/listening. Don't miss this one.

15 of 17 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Ted
  • Lancaster, PA, United States
  • 10-07-13

What's a Real Delusion?

Tanya French has chosen to show rather than tell how it seems when an understanding of the normal abruptly shifts. Perception is reality. Change the former and reality changes for the perceiver. We are the sum of our ideas. Should they shift from a manic trauma, reality will change. Like a rider in a windowless train’s car we depart into a reality that’s seemed to have moved while in fact we were the ones who travelled.

Tanya French shows rather than tells the psychological horror of someone trying to balance upon a shuddering reality which threatens to blur like the view from a careening vehicle’s window. And she does it with a mastery of detailed research that's hidden from us like the Disney folks hide their critical infrastructure in tunnels and behind soothing facades. The clues are here from the first pages, but not until well into the end do we realize how important those dark tunnels and backrooms of psychosis are.

I have a mega quibble. This book promised an Irish tale. Yes, there’s good reason to explain why the narrator Steven Crossley’s accent for the protagonist is British. Pity though that Crossley was unable or unwilling to find a trace of Ireland in the voices of the rest of the Irish cast of French’s characters. I wish that perhaps Gerard Doyle, the masterful Irish voice of Adrain McKinty’s powerful novels had told us this story. Even though I easily recommend the challenge and imagination of “Into The Wood”, Crossley is miscast as this novel’s reader.

13 of 15 people found this review helpful