Tana French — In the Woods

What I warn you to remember is that I am a detective. Our relationship with the 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 every variation on deception. The truth is the most desirable woman in the world and we are the most jealous lovers, reflexively denying anyone else the slightest glimpse of her. We betray her routinely … This is my job … What I am telling you, before you begin my story, is this–two things: I crave truth. And I lie.

Tana French was recommended to me by an earlier commenter on this blog and I’ve finally gotten around to checking it out.

This one grabbed me right from the beginning simply because of the way it was written: this is the detective novel that I’d been hunting for. A literary meditation on the game, in some part echoing my own fascination with homicide investigations. And it was really beautifully written, throughout: the characterization unique and believable, and the mystery tense and compelling. (Well, both mysteries, for there are two.)

Detective Adam Robert Ryan is assigned the case of a twelve year old girl murdered in Knocknaree, the death full of sinister portents and implications. More so because when he was twelve himself, he and his two friends went into the woods–and only Adam emerged, with no memory of what had occurred within them. With a new accent and going by his middle name, Detective Ryan lies so that he and his partner Cassie Maddox can investigate the death of little Katy Devlin, something that Ryan feels he NEEDS to do.

The book is gripping right up until the end. Though, frustratingly, not all of the ends are tied up. Certain mysteries still remained, and while I hope that one day French will return to Ryan’s story, I strangely didn’t mind that we didn’t get answers to everything. The journey there was enough for me. Especially with such lovely paragraphs:

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.


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