Saturday, January 3, 2009

Psychological Suspense

The mystery/suspense thriller is not my genre of choice. I am always amazed at how many mysteries appear on the best seller lists. I picked up “In The Woods”, Tana French’s first novel and was intrigued with the book’s description on the back cover. I think I was surprised when I began to read the novel and saw that it was indeed a mystery, with detectives, evidence, a murder, and suspects. Tana French, who now lives in Ireland, won the Edgar Award for best first novel by an American author.

The story is set in a suburb of Dublin, Ireland called Knocknaree. Rob Ryan is a detective with a female partner, Cassie Maddox. Rob is the narrator of this story and at times it is difficult to match the hard line male detective with the Rob’s voice. This problem could be that it is Ms. French’s first novel. But the story itself is very intriguing.

Rob’s full name is Adam Robert Ryan. When he was twelve years old he went into the woods behind his home with his two best friends. The children could not be found for hours. When the police finally found Adam, he was alone, gripping a tree in terror with his shoes filled with blood. He had absolutely no memory of what happened to his friends. They were never found.

Twenty years later Adam is now Rob Ryan and a detective in the Garda in Dublin. He and his partner are assigned to solve the case of a child’s murder in the same woods where Adam/Rob lost his friends. But the woods are now the site of an archaeological dig. No one but Cassie knows of Rob’s connection to the woods.

This is a psychological thriller and very well written. The characters are fully developed and the reader is pulled into Rob’s pain, torment and dysfunction as he tries to connect and solve the two crimes. There is the element of romance that is complicated and sad. The family of the victim is strange and the diggers at the site are not all what they seem to be.

Tana French’s writing is captivating. The humor and psychological details she disperses keep the reader very interested. The ending is good although not necessarily what you would expect. I would definitely read Ms. French’s next novel even if it is a “mystery”.

1 comment:

  1. I am late to the "Tana French" party (see also Charlotte's blog of 02.05.10) having just finished this book. French’s descriptions of the friendship among the three children are especially moving, just what one would wish for every child. Twelve is an age on the cusp. Would these friendships have lasted anyway? Who can say but what a special picture French paints. Think of the summer when you were 12.