Study Guide

In The Woods

By Tana French

In The Woods Introduction

Do you like to hike? You know, breathe some fresh air, listen to twittering birds in trees, marvel at pretty little flowers along the path…

If this sounds good to you, then we suggest you go for a quick walk in the woods before picking up In the Woods. Because after reading Tana French's 2007 novel, well, it just might be a while before you voluntarily surround yourself with trees again.

Why's this? In short: People go into French's woods… and they never come out. Or, not alive, anyway.

In 1984, three children went missing in the woods near Knocknaree, Ireland, and only one was found: Rob Ryan. Almost twenty years later, Rob is now a detective on the Dublin Murder Squad. A new body has been found in the same woods, and Rob suspects there may be a connection to the unsolved case from two decades ago.

In the Woods is a compelling blend of all things murder-related. Think: police procedures, forensic investigation, psychological suspense, and intense interrogation dynamics. French won a wheelbarrow full of awards for her book, including the Edgar, Anthony, Barry, and Macavity. Yes, we think that sounds like a boring dinner party, too, but we swear that list is oozing with prestige.

And a world this rich can't end with just one book. French has continued to roll out books in her Dublin Murder Squad series (even though the Dublin Murder Squad only exists in her novels), each one featuring a different narrator to keep things fresh. Rob's partner, Cassie Maddox, in In the Woods, narrates the next book, The Likeness—so if you like her here, you're in luck. So grab a flashlight and head In the Woods to see what all the fuss is about.

What is In The Woods About and Why Should I Care?

Why do people love solving mysteries so much? Some of television's top-rated shows include NCIS, CSI, and SVU (the mystery here is to figure out WTH all those initials stand for). And popular books include mysteries by Sue Grafton, James Patterson, and JD Robb—plus they've been dogging Sherlock Holmes stories and Agatha Christie's novels for decades. So what's the obsession with whodunnits?

Perhaps people think they can put some aspect of their own chaotic lives in order by solving these crimes in the span of an hour of two. That's certainly what Detective Rob Ryan hopes to achieve in In the Woods. Not only does he hope to bring peace of mind to the Devlin family, whose daughter, Katy, was brutally murdered in the woods, but he hopes to bring peace of mind to himself. Rob was also the victim of a crime in the woods, and he hopes that by solving one crime, he can achieve closure in another.

Of course, real life (and In the Woods) doesn't really work that way. Sure, the crime may be solved and the killer caught. Justice is served, right? Not quite. The victim is still dead, and the real mystery is how to deal with that grief and loss. And even Rob struggles with this one.

In The Woods Resources

Websites

Scene of the Crime (Writer)
French's site details all her crimes. Well, her crime novels.

French's Book
No, not her new book, but her Facebook.

Articles and Interviews

Writer's Block
French likens trying to come up with writing ideas to Rob trying to recover his memories in In the Woods. We hope French's writing life is less scary than being in those woods.

Speaking French
Well, speaking with French about her genre-defying novel.

Video

French in the Woods
These woods where French is interviewed seem downright quaint compared to the spooky forest in her book… well until French starts staring creepily at us through the leaves.

Girl Gone in the Woods
Rincey Reads compares In the Woods with Gone Girl…and holds up a copy of In the Woods for a really long time.

Audio

A How-to for You
French spills the beans on how she tries to see a mystery in anything. Could the Shmoop Murders be her next book?

Don't Miss a Mystery
NPR chose In the Woods as a book not to miss in 2007 thanks to its plot full of twists and turns.

Images

Foreign Woods
This cover of the In the Woods is a lot creepier than the American cover. We do not want to go to there.

You in There?
French seems nice… until she lurks in the trees. After reading this book, we don't trust anyone in the woods.