Rob Ryan is a detective in Dublin, Ireland. He takes pride in being a detective and tries to play the part as best he can. But Rob goes about his work with a secret past. No one knows Rob Ryan is really Adam Ryan.
Twelve-year-olds Adam Ryan, Jamie Rowan and Peter Savage were best friends in the small Irish town of Knocknaree. They often played in the woods behind their houses. On Aug. 14, 1984, the three friends ran into the woods with instructions to be home by 6:30. By 8 p.m., with no word from the children, the parents, police and neighborhood put together a search party and started combing the woods. Several hours into the search, Adam Ryan was found, clinging to a tree so tightly that his nails had broken off in the trunk, covered in scratches, three large tears down the back of his shirt and his shoes filled with blood. Unable to speak or move, Adam couldn’t tell the police anything that had happened. Jamie and Peter were never found.
Even after years of trying, Adam couldn’t remember anything that had happened after the three friends went into the woods. Every attempt was unsuccessful, and the case went cold.
Fast forward twenty years - Rob Ryan and his partner Cassie Maddox work on the Dublin murder squad. Unexpectedly they get handed the case of a young girl murdered in Knocknaree. To save his career and his pride, Rob never mentions his connection to the small town, and he takes the case.
As Rob and Cassie dig deeper into the murder case, the eerie similarities between the disappearances of Rob’s childhood friends and the current case start to surface. Rob tries to dig deep into his long-buried memories from childhood hoping to find something that will not only help him solve his current case, but also lead him to discover what happened to his friends so many years ago.
“In the Woods” is French’s first novel, and she definitely made a mark for herself as a crime-thriller author. The book has a steady suspenseful pace that never lets the reader get bored but doesn’t rush the story either. The characters are expertly developed with complex layers to each one of them.
“In the Woods” builds from a base mystery and follows a plot path full of twists and turns until you arrive somewhere you never thought you were going. It is equal parts psychological thriller, whodunit mystery and a personal, deeply emotional story. I was left looking forward to French’s next book, “The Likeness.”
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