Oh Suburbia

On an unrelated note, the roomies just diverted water from a neighbor’s leaky yard into our yard, in order to water the grass. Water piracy! Or not. It was just being wastefully washed down the street. Kind of funny. And kind of brilliant.

Today’s book is In the Woods by Tana French.  The novel is set in Ireland, and tells the story of Detective Adam “Rob” Ryan and his partner Cassie Maddox, investigating the murder of a twelve-year-old girl (Katy) in the suburbs of Dublin.  Ryan is also hiding a secret from his squad: he was a victim in a twenty-year-old case (in which his two best friends went missing, and the details of which he cannot remember) in the same area, and believes that his case and Katy’s are linked.  As he and Cassie follow leads and attempt to get to the bottom of Katy’s case, he is visited by half-remembered glimpses into his childhood trauma.
I felt from the first few pages that this novel was going to be stellar.  First, it was a NYT Bestseller (then again, so was Twilight), and won the Edgar Award.  Second, even before it sucks you in with the suspensful twists and turns, the characters engage you.  Ryan is dark and tormented while Cassie is bright, sharp, and both have dry, intensely amusing wits.  They have depth, are quirky and detailed.  The interactions between Detectives Ryan and Maddox are engaging and add a lightness to a novel that’s often very heavy.  In fact, the entire book is full of witty banter and light-hearted moments, alleviating the tension and sadness that would otherwise pervade the text.

The plot is slow to develop, starting out as a basic whodunit, and building into a full-out psychological shocker.  Though the end of a chapter is traditionally a stopping point, I found that I had to put the book down in the middle of chapters because the end of each chapter had a new surprise, and I wanted to know what it was.  The end, however, did not meet my expectations.  I felt that French built to a much more explosive ending than what actually appeared at the end of the book.  And the greater mystery that Detective Ryan hints at through the entire novel is never actually solved.  Add to that the drama between Ryan and Maddox, and I was pretty irritated at the end, for the stupid reason that the book did not go the way I wanted it to. Which is actually a quality that is admirable in books. I’m just being stubborn.

One thing that I really enjoyed about the text was the way in which Detective Ryan sometimes addresses the reader.  Rather than ignore the fact that he has an audience the way many narrators do, Ryan draws the reader in by speaking to them personally. Ex: “I wish I could make you understand…”  This makes it feel as if the story is being imparted directly to me, as if he said “Courtney, I wish I could make you understand…”  Brilliant move on French’s part. Made the story much more interesting to me.

Overall, the book was not as good as I expected.  The build-up was fantastic: made my heart race, took me from  laughing out loud to near-sobbing in half a page, and kept me engaged the entire time.  What lost me was the end, which was as big or surprising a resolution as I’d expected from that intense rising action.  However, I do recommend it.  I look forward to reading her next book, as I enjoyed her fierce and witty style, and the edginess of the characters.


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