A French Kiss in the Woods

In the WoodsI have a new writer crush on Tana French. Although other mystery writers have worked the angle of writing different books in a series from the perspective of different detectives in the same police department, her Dublin Murder Squad series uses the device to brilliant effect, creating unanswered questions that leave one dying to read the next book, even though the mystery of the first book is solved.

The first book of the series is In the Woodsand it’s lovely, dark, and deep indeed. The narrator is Rob Ryan, a young police detective. Years before, he and two of his childhood friends went into the woods near there Dublin suburb. The other two disappeared without a trace, while Rob was found clutching a tree in terror, unable to remember most of the events that occurred. Among Rob’s police colleagues, only his partner Cassie knows of his history (he has changed his name since, and doesn’t have much family to tie him to the past).

When the pair pick up a murder case, a young girl found on a rock altar at an archaeological site near the very same woods, Rob takes the case even though Cassie tries to warn him off, worried that his past will be exposed. But there are a couple of elements that tie the two crimes together, and Rob just can’t resist the chance to explore his past.

What really puts French’s story over the top for me, however, is not the case, although she handles that with great aplomb, providing a variety of suspects and motives to suss through. There’s even greater pleasure to be found in Rob and Cassie’s relationship, the kind that verges on romance, but is based on such a strong friendship that the two don’t entirely realize the deeper layer of attraction. This adds another taut string of suspense that readers wait for the author to pluck.

The second book The Likeness uses Cassie as the narrator, and further books in the series have each taken yet another viewpoint. If you like crime, contemporary Ireland, or complicated relationships, you won’t regret picking up this series. The fifth book, The Secret Place, is due in September. All five have received starred reviews here at Booklist, how’s that for consistency?

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About the Author:

Neil Hollands is an Adult Services Librarian at Williamsburg Regional Library in Virginia, where he specializes in readers’ advisory and collection development. He is the author of Read On . . . Fantasy Fiction (2007) and Fellowship in a Ring: a Guide for Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Groups (2009).

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