Study Guide

In The Woods Quotes

  • Lies and Deceit

    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. (1.1)

    How "cracked" does the truth have to be before it becomes an outright lie?

    "Everything about undercover bothered me," Cassie said. "Everything." (1.68)

    While she doesn't elaborate, we imagine the whole lying thing didn't sit well with Cassie. She's usually very candid and honest.

    I knew, of course, that I should tell O'Kelly, now that I was working on a case that looked like it might be connected to that one, but to be frank I never for a second considered doing it. (3.3)

    A lie of omission never hurt anyone, right? Should Rob have come out and told O'Kelly early on? Why did he want to be on this case so badly?

    "I saw this guy come down the road and go into the estate." (3.75)

    Mel suspects Damian is lying. No one else saw this man…

    When I first went to boarding school I told my dormmates I had a twin brother. (3.198)

    Seems like Rob has been lying for a long time. Why does Rob lie? Is it to gain sympathy from other people? To make himself feel better? Honestly: We're asking.

    Sam has tendency to directness that I've always found slightly startling, in a detective. (5.45)

    As a liar, Rob seems to be surprised that other people don't actually live their lives in a haze of deceit.

    I didn't believe [Rosalind]. The lie was transparent—something that size, someone would have mentioned it during the door-to-door—and it went straight to my heart […] because I recognized it. (9.250)

    Rob believes Rosalind is lying when she says that an orchestra performed one of her sonatas. She is lying, and this is one of the only times Rob notices, because he, too, is the type of person to overinflate his accomplishments. He did it with Cassie when they first met.

    "Yeah," [Sam] said after a moment. "It was." His breathing was fast and shallow. (18.38)

    Sam almost goes into shock when he finds out that his uncle isn't the honest man he thought he was. Yes, it's a little naïve of Sam to think his politician uncle is honest, but for someone as earnest as Sam, this discovery shakes his belief system.

    "No conscience, no empathy, pathological liar, manipulative, charming, intuitive, attention-seeking, easily bored, narcissistic, turns very nasty when she's thwarted in any way…" (23.183)

    Cassie is describing Rosalind here, but she might as well be describing Rob, although he isn't as nefarious as Rosalind is. After all, he rarely empathizes with others, he tells us he's a liar, he's charming, he wants attention, he always talks about himself, and as soon as he sleeps with Cassie, he turns very nasty.

    I think [Cassie] transferred because she had lied to O'Kelly and she had lied to Rosalind Devlin, and both of them had believed her; and because, when she told me the truth, I had called her a liar. (25.66)

    Cassie is one of the few honest characters in the book, but the situation drives her to lie to people… and it turns out she's really good at it. She's much better at lying than Rob, and that guy lies for a living and a hobby.

  • Memories and the Past

    Picture a summer stolen whole from some coming-of-age film set in small-town 1950s. (Prologue.1)

    The first line of the book colors Rob's memories of Knocknaree with an almost-perfect Sepia-toned Instagram filter, just as many childhood memories are. But note French's word choice of "stolen." It's a chilling word that foreshadows the crime, and Rob's childhood being stolen from him, along with his memories.

    I don't remember very many specifics about that evening, and according to Cassie neither does she. (1.36)

    While in the middle of the case, all the nights Rob and Cassie spend together kind of blend into one. We're not sure how Rob knows what Cassie does and doesn't remember, though, because by the end of the book they're not on speaking terms.

    runner heels dug into the earth of the bank, leaf-shadows dappling a red T-shirt, fishing-rods of branches and string, slapping at midges: Shut up! You'll scare the fish— (2.23)

    This little italicized fragment is one of the first of Rob's repressed memories that resurfaces. It's a good way to capture memory. There's no real beginning, no real end, and it just pops up out of nowhere.

    A hair clip. (2.74)

    These three words, and this tiny object, conjure up a bunch of memories for Rob that he had forgotten. It's amazing how something so insignificant (something a young boy would hardly have noticed) brings so many memories flooding back.

    "I wondered. Is that in the file, do you know, or do you just remember it?" (3.40)

    Rob gets defensive about his memories when Cassie asks about them. He feels insecure that he can't remember such a major event in his life.

    I had been bracing myself quite hard for this, actually. I think I'd had some vague idea that seeing the evidence would trigger a dramatic flash of memories; I hadn't exactly expected to end up in a fetal position on the basement floor. (6.138)

    When Rob has a repressed memory resurface, it literally knocks him off his feet. Remembering for him isn't just mental, it can be almost physical, too.

    I wondered if […] all the answers we wanted were locked away behind the strange dark gateways of [Jessica's] mind. (9.290)

    Memories don't mean a thing to anyone else if you can't express them, and Jessica, with whatever her disability is, cannot communicate what she thinks.

    I started trying—for the first time, really—to remember what had happened in the wood. (10.50)

    Rob treats memory, and retrieving memories from the woods of his brain, as some sort of skill. He has to practice how to remember, through a Zen-like meditation process. It's like a survival tactic.

    It was the smell of it—a wistful blend of sandalwood and chamomile that went straight for my subconscious, setting memories flickering like fish in murky water. (10.104)

    The sense of smell can be an incredible gateway to memory. Smelling the scents inside Jamie's house takes Rob back instantly to the time he spent there when he was a child.

    I think I can say, without flattering myself, that I've always had an ironically good memory. (11.51)

    This is the least self-aware thing anyone has ever said ever. Rob has the worst memory ever. He has forgotten almost his entire childhood, and even during the case he forgets about the missing trowel until the eleventh hour of investigation.

  • Manipulation

    I flirt with her at first, telling her I can see why he would want to stay home when he's got her. (1.2)

    Rob's primary interrogation tactic—one that many cops, at least those on the Dublin Murder Squad use—it to manipulate their subject to get him closer and closer to a confession.

    "Please let me stay," Rosalind said, lifting her chin. "Katy was my sister—whatever happened to her, I can… I can listen to it." (3.147)

    Even though we don't know it yet, in Chapter 3, this is Rosalind already starting to be manipulative. She's pretending to care for her sister, but all she really wants to know is exactly what the cops know, and to find out if Damien did exactly what she wanted him to.

    You get people like this in every investigation, people who end up wasting huge amounts of your time with their compulsion to say whatever they think you want to hear. (3.210)

    Sometimes people tell cops what they think they want to hear in order to get them to do what they want, but it seems likely to us that sometimes people tell cops what they think they want to hear because, um, cops carry guns and have a ton of power.

    "[Rosalind] was sick of her dad bossing her around. I think maybe he hit her or something." (7.34)

    Rosalind's cousin Valerie is telling the truth here, but she's only saying what Rosalind told her. Of course Rosalind would tell her that her dad hit her—she wants to manipulate people into thinking that she's abused at home.

    "I guess I'm a bit scared of [Detective Maddox.] She's so aggressive." (9.96)

    Rosalind wastes no time trying to subtly turn Rob against Cassie. The sad thing is that Rob is an adult, and Rosalind is only seventeen, yet it works. She has him wrapped around her little finger, and she continues to manipulate him during this entire conversation.

    "We've both been having a hard time," Rosalind said sharply, "but one of us has to act like an adult instead of like a stupid little girl." (9.227)

    Rosalind manipulates Jessica, her younger sister, too, but she's a little, um, less gentle with her tactics. If she's passive-aggressive with Rob, then she's aggressive-aggressive with her sister.

    "Hey, we all know what she needs," I said, "but would you want to get close enough to give it to her?" (13.125)

    Rob mirrors Cathal's reprehensible misogyny in order to manipulate the guy into thinking Rob is an ally. He's being a "good cop" by basically pretending to be a rapist. Classy.

    "They all believed him—all our classmates, all our mutual acquaintances, which added up to just about everyone I knew. People who were supposed to be my friends." (13.166)

    Cassie's psychopathic college boyfriend is so good at ruining at her life because he doesn't just manipulate her, he fools all of her friends, thereby turning them against her, too.

    "You head it up. He thinks of women as the source of sympathy and approval; I'll pat him on the head now and then. He's intimidated by men, so go easy: if you push him too hard, he'll freeze up and want to leave." (20.20)

    Cassie is good at reading people, and she uses this skill during Damien's interrogation to coach Rob on exactly how to behave to the get the answers they need from Damien.

    "It was my idea," Damien said quickly. "Rosalind had nothing to do with it. She didn't even— At first she said no." (23.95)

    Rosalind is so good at manipulating Damien that he doesn't even realize he's doing exactly what she wants him to do. It's impressive, if also impressively terrible.

  • Jealousy

    Men like [Mark]—men who are obviously interested purely in what they think of other people, not in what other people think of them—have always made me violently insecure. (2.40)

    Violently insecure, yes, and jealous, too. Jealous of how Cassie doesn't seem to hate Mark and is the object of her attention… even though she's only paying attention to him because Mark is the subject of a murder interrogation.

    "Please, Ryan, do us both a favor and grow up; you know exactly what I mean. [Rosalind] smiles at inappropriate times, and, as you spotted, she wasn't wearing a bra." (4.57)

    Cassie doesn't say these things because she's jealous of Rosalind (unlike Rob who tries to pin the blame on Mark, whom he's jealous of). But Rob acts as though Cassie is jealous of Rosalind, because he (Rob) is the type to be jealous over something so silly.

    I checked the interview room: Mark was writing, and Cassie had managed to make him laugh. […] Apparently they were managing to get by without me. (6.134)

    "Apparently." That one word makes us think that Rob is furious that Cassie is making Mark laugh. Why isn't she making Rob laugh, huh? What about him?

    "[Mark's] motive is he's several hundred yards out of his tree. […] When it comes to this site, he's batty." (8.78)

    We don't have the space, or the patience, to write Rob's whole rant on why Mark is guilty. It's almost entirely speculation derived from the jealousy he feels toward the man.

    "Shane found out and wanted to play, too. Cathal was of course fine with this, but Sandra wasn't." (12.61)

    Shane, Jonathan, and Cathal share everything. Note we said "thing." The problem is that they see women as things, so Shane expects Cathal to share Sandra, too—he's jealous that she sleeps with Jonathan and Cathal, but not him.

    "She's never liked me very much, has she?" (17.53)

    Rosalind pretends to be jealous of Cassie to gain sympathy from Rob, and to subtly turn Rob against his partner, especially when Cassie suggests that Rosalind might be a part of the murder.

    Sam had spent much of his life trundling happily along on sheer dumb luck, and I had a hard time working up much sympathy for the fact that he had finally stepped on a banana skin and gone flying. (18.41)

    We have to wonder if Rob is jealous of Sam's innocence. Innocence isn't something Rob really ever had since almost getting murdered at twelve years old takes that away pretty quickly.

    It didn't help that Peter and Jamie looked exactly like they always had: longer in the leg, all their baby teeth gone, but still slight and light and invincible as ever. (18.130)

    Rob seems to be a little jealous here, that as he got older, he entered an awkward phase that his friends seem to have avoided.

    "I'm aware of that. I can." (20.8)

    Dude. Rob. Let it go and stop trying to pin this whole crime on Mark just because you don't like him and Cassie does. Heck, she doesn't even like him. She just doesn't think he killed and raped a twelve-year-old. There's a big difference.

    "You've never liked Rosalind, have you?" (21.99)

    And In the Woods practically turns into an episode of Pretty Little Liars here as Rob accuses Cassie (a grown woman) of not liking a teenager. Rob is the type of person to let his jealousy control him during a police investigation (see all the quotes about Mark), so he acts like Cassie is the same way, but she is much more professional.

  • Violence

    "Her head's smashed in, but Cooper found petechial hemorrhaging and some possible ligature marks on her neck, too, so we'll have to wait for the post for cause of death." (2.70)

    Katy's murder is pretty gruesome, and even though she's twelve, the story doesn't shy away from the gory details. Perhaps it gives us more than we'd ever ask for to further illustrate how terrible this murder of a child is.

    "She was killed somewhere else, probably kept for a day or so and then dumped." (2.73)

    That's pretty vile. Someone not only killed Katy, but stored her somewhere, and then dumped her body like a bag of garbage. It takes a really twisted person to do that to another human.

    "There were two blows to the head, both ante-mortem—before death. […] Both were struck with a hard, rough object with protrusions with no distinct edges." (5.71)

    In the Woods doesn't shy away from violence or investigating the violence, such as this exchange during the autopsy of a twelve-year-old girl.

    "The rape was post-mortem, and was performed using an implement of some kind." [Cooper] paused, discreetly enjoying the effect. (5.84)

    Cooper, being the forensic examiner, has probably seen many more violent acts than this one, which to us, is horrifying. He's desensitized to it, though, and seems to relish shocking other people with graphic details.

    [Sandra's] skirt was twisted up around her waist and there were huge rips all down her tights. (11.105)

    Rob remembers this detail from Sandra's violent gang rape. The way Jonathan tells it, it almost seems quaint—holding down a girl and having sex with her. But Rob witnessed the violence of it, and recounts an image like this to illustrate how awful it was.

    "Shane, only. Not that that makes it any better. I helped hold her." (13.63)

    Jonathan was complicit in a gang rape when he was a teenager. Has he changed as an adult, or is this capacity for violence always a part of him?

    "You know what that bitch needs, don't you?" Cathal said. (13.124)

    Cathal thinks other men are like himself: violent and primal, and unable to control these urges, especially when it comes to women. If he didn't, he wouldn't so openly speak this way.

    We decorated it as carefully as a stage set. Photos of Katy, alive and dead, spanning half a wall. (14.2)

    Rob and Cassie use the violent contrast between life and death to manipulate interrogation suspects. It's hard not to be honest when confronted with the stark details of a violent crime.

    I lunged at [Jonathan]. […] Cassie was on me already, grabbing my raised arm with both hands. "Jesus, Ryan! Stop!" (14.119)

    Rob threatens Jonathan with force, but this time, he's serious—he and Cassie struggle, for real, and he ends up hurting her. Rob is unable to control his violent impulses when angry in this situation.

    We heard scuffling, the crunch of twigs snapping underfoot; then a swift, vicious noise like the hiss of a cat, and something between a smack and a thump, and a sharp gasp from Cassie. (24.170)

    Rosalind ends up losing her cool and attacking Cassie, scratching her face. She might prefer manipulation, but this evil teen isn't above letting her claws out, too.

  • Women and Femininity

    For one thing [Cassie] was a woman, which caused a certain amount of poorly sublimated outrage. (1.22)

    Rob mentions that the Murder Squad—heck, most of Ireland, in fact—is still stuck in the 1950s in some way. This removes the Sepia tint nostalgia of the novel's opening scene, and replaces it with a reminder of 1950s Mad Men-era misogyny and discrimination.

    Cassie was only the fourth woman Murder had taken on. (1.22)

    The police force in Ireland (and probably everywhere, all over the world) is a total boys' club, so Cassie faces an uphill battle for respect from her superiors and her peers from the very beginning.

    The grapevine claimed, inevitably, that [Cassie] was sleeping with someone important, or alternatively that she was someone's illegitimate daughter. (1.23)

    This is mentioned around the time that we're told "Cassie was only twenty-eight." So are these remarks ageist, sexist, or a little bit of both –ists?

    We went through the predictable process where Quigley and a few of the others spent a while asking me whether I was shagging her and whether, if so, she was any good; once it dawned on them that I genuinely wasn't, they moved on to her probably dykehood. (1.72)

    Not only are the male officers misogynistic, assuming that Rob and Cassie must be sleeping together (of course, we can't defend them once they do sleep together), they also turn homophobic in a way they wouldn't with a male officer. No one suspects Rob is gay because he doesn't sleep with Cassie; they suspect she is.

    "No real man could actually be beaten by a little girl." (2.4)

    Cassie is often very sarcastic about the prejudice she's subjected to from the males on the force, or in this case, from the male worms in the computer game Worms.

    [O'Kelly] dislikes Cassie for a series of mind-numbingly predictable reasons—her sex, her clothes, her age, her semiheroic record—and the predictability bothers her far more than the dislike. (2.17)

    We imagine her gender is at the top of O'Kelly's dislike list, and that he wouldn't dislike her for the other reasons if she were male. And it's funny how she hates him for hating her for such unoriginal reasons. Misogyny is so 1950s, dude.

    "I walked straight into it. You're some woman, all the same." (6.57)

    Even the witnesses, like Mark the archeologist, are misogynistic. Mark seems to think that Cassie tricked him during her interrogation because she's a woman, not because she's a cop trying to get information.

    O'Kelly made a few derisive comments about headaches being "womany shite." (11.82)

    Yes, only women get headaches. Good thing you're in charge, O'Kelly.

    "We'd always shared everything." (13.51)

    The worst treatment of women comes from the teenage Jonathan Devlin and friends who view women as property to be passed around and used. They never once think that Sandra has thoughts and feelings of her own—she's just their instrument.

    "Women can't afford to wait like men can, you know. And being a detective must make it hard to have a serious relationship, doesn't it? It must be a lot of pressure for her." (17.63)

    Rosalind is being manipulative here. (When is she not?) But she speaks the truth in some way—it is a lot harder for Cassie to be a detective as a woman. Although the issues Rosalind speaks of aren't necessarily at the forefront of Cassie's mind now, they might be later if she wants to start a family of her own.

  • Appearances

    When I made the Murder squad, I had already had my new work clothes […] hanging in my wardrobe for almost a year. (1.18)

    Rob subscribes to the strategy of "dress for the job you want, not the job you have." So he dresses like a murder detective, which in this case involves blue pinstripes and cashmere scarves. Who knew murder detectives were so cuddly?

    [Cassie] wasn't dressed like a Murder detective. […] She was wearing combat trousers and a wine-colored woolen sweater with sleeves that came down past her wrists, and clunky runners. (1.28, 1.29)

    Wait, are you saying that Cassie got the job maybe—gasp—based on actual skills and not on how she looked? No, that can't be true.

    "Everything she's wearing is blue and white, right down to the hair elastics. This kid coordinated." (2.76)

    Katy is one of those murder victims that is just perfect for the media—she's a young girl and she dresses well. Her color-coordination speaks to her personality type, too, though. She wants to be a dancer and she takes care of her appearance. A girl who comes from an abusive household might be more likely to look like a total mess.

    [Damien] looked like the type who was accustomed to being taken care of by women. (3.54)

    Rob is being a little judgmental in his initial assessment of Damien, but he's actually right in a roundabout way. Damien is this type, but it goes a little further; he's not just taken care of by women, he's manipulated by a young woman into doing her bidding.

    "We were wary of them, but I think that was mainly because of their image, not because they ever did anything to us." (5.27)

    It seems like we shouldn't judge a teenager by his t-shirt, but Devlin and his friends turn out to actually be reprehensible little snots, so the moral actually is not to trust anyone in a Metallica tee.

    Katy Devlin was naked under the merciless fluorescent lights and too small for the table, and she looked somehow deader than she had the previous day. (5.67)

    This is one of the saddest images of the novel, as the girl who was once a well-dressed dancer is now just a cut open corpse. Not that anyone should ever be murdered, but it's exceptionally gruesome when it's a child, which is why Rob notes that she appears "too small for the table."

    One of the photos—Rosalind's anguished, upturned profile, an unflattering shot of me with my mouth open—made it onto the front page of a tabloid the next morning. (9.15)

    Police have to watch how they appear to the media. We're surprised this photos doesn't come back to bite Rob in the butt later on after Rosalind starts lying about their relationship.

    "I still keep her bedroom the way she left it." (10.143)

    By keeping things the same, Jamie's mother keeps her daughter alive. If she were to change the way her daughter's room looks, it would be like changing her memories of her daughter, or letting a piece of her go.

    The year I was twelve, I was a big kid. […] I felt monstrous and lost: my own body had betrayed me. (18.130)

    Rob looked different from the other kids his age, and it made him uncomfortable.

    At certain angles you could see a fuzz of fair, pathetic stubble on [Damien's] chin. (23.5)

    We're not sure how stubble can be "pathetic," but Rob thinks it is. This says more about Rob, and how he views other people superficially, than it does about Damien (who is pathetic, but not because of his facial hair).

  • The Supernatural

    "Was this the work of a satanic cult?" (3.203)

    Inquiring minds want to know. With the Knocknaree woods being the site of ancient rituals (there's even a sacrificial altar), rumors of the supernatural abound.

    I thought of the old superstition that the soul lingers near the body for a few days, bewildered and unsure. (5.67)

    Even Rob sometimes wonders about the supernatural, although he's not the type to take this train of thought too seriously.

    "There's no evidence of any royal burials or dwelling places on the site, but we found Bronze Age religious artifacts all over the place—the altar stone, votive figurines, a gold offering cup, remains of animal sacrifices and some possible human ones. That used to be a major religious site, that hill." (6.68)

    The woods have history and when anything has that much human history, people start to think there are ghosts and spirits and other creatures living there.

    "The wine you spilled. […] A libation?" (6.73)

    Mark takes the Knocknaree site very seriously, and his offering of red wine to the grounds treads a fine line between religion and belief in the supernatural.

    There was something unnatural about them—the perfect parallels, the neat shallow arcs, a stark, implacable impossibility. (6.139)

    No one can explain how Rob's t-shirt was cut. It doesn't seem like anything that could have been done by a person or a tree branch, though…

    "All I'll say is that there's been something just a little off kilter about that place all along. […] Do you believe, my boy, that a place can have a will of its own—that it can rebel, so to speak, against human mismanagement?" (10.170)

    And this is why the police always have to debunk supernatural rumors, because people like this guy, who is a journalist, believe that the place itself might be killing folks.

    [Cassie] told me about a time when she was nine and convinced all the other local kids that a magic wolf lived in the hills near the village. (11.125)

    This is something kids do: They pretend there are magical beasts around. But some kids actually believe it. Strangely, Rob and his friends never believed there was anything supernatural in the woods when they were kids. And interestingly, people seem to believe it more as adults.

    Sandra says she never heard anything like it. Like an enormous bird flapping its wings, she said, only she's positive it was a voiced sound, a call. (12.70)

    There are lots of strange supernatural details in the testimonies of the witnesses for the 1984 crime, and all of them are slightly different from others. Some hear laughter, while some hear animal noises, or voices.

    The darkness in front of me was shifting, condensing. […] Somewhere across the clearing something breathed; something big. (14.102)

    We're not sure if Rob is actually witnessing something supernatural here, or if he's caught in between his dream state and reality and all the witness testimony about something weird in the woods is getting into his subconscious.

    "There kept being these, these noises outside, like something was scratching at the walls of the shed." (21.46)

    Damien even suggests something supernatural in the present-day case, and what he saw—or heard, in this case—is different than anything else, like Sandra's bird noise or the laughter Jonathan heard.