Knock-Knocknaree. Who's There?
Knocknaree is a small town "only a few miles from Dublin" (Prologue.2)—Dublin, Ireland, that is—and it has farmers, cows, pastures, and children getting murdered in the woods. How quaint.
Knocknaree means "hill of the king" (6.68). This isn't a shout-out to Hank Hill, but instead to all the relics of ancient civilization that are being dug up in the woods.
Even though Rob grew up in Knocknaree, when he returns, he says the woods are "more intricate and more secretive" (16.4) than he remembered. "It was like stumbling into the wreck of some great ancient city" (16.6), he notes. It's a small town full of secrets—like Twin Peaks, but with fewer log ladies—and we can perhaps understand Rob's description of it as a description of how he sees himself, too; like something complex and mysterious and potentially wonderful. For more on Rob, though, be sure to check out the "Characters" section.
Knocknaree is a working-class suburb intended to be a "plan-perfect solution to overcrowding and poverty and every urban ill" (Prologue.2). No pressure, right? Thing is, this doesn't quite pan out. The families are struggling members of the working class, and with the highway moving in, they're still being taken advantage of by the powers that be.
Sure, the highway might bring more commerce to the area, but that's a really big might. The only definite is that it's putting money in the pockets of the landowners and developers who sold out (and maybe sold a tiny bit of their souls) to make the deal go through. Because of this, there's a whiff of desperation always in the air. And when people are desperate, people often commit crimes. Even murder.