Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!
So every 17th I try to make an Irish recipe in honor of the day. Usually I make some Irish Soda Bread and something else to go with it. But this year the holiday falls on a Tuesday and I have an Irish mystery to post:
In the Woods (Dublin Murder Squad #1) by Tana French
This book came out twelve years ago and it is funny but I remember exactly when it came out because the title makes me think of Into the Woods and I just love the cover.
So I had tried to read it before, but every time something got in the way and I had to return the book. I finally got a chance to read it, and actually wished I hadn’t. Why? You’ll see.
In 1984 Ireland, three kids went in the woods to have a picnic. 12-year olds Peter, Jamie, and Adam spend all their free time in the woods-no one knows that area better than them. Jamie is very upset that day as it was her last before being sent away to boarding school so her single mother could go back to school.
They three are furious to be separated and run off into the woods. When they don’t come back at tea time, Jamie’s mother starts to get upset but just thinks the kids are protesting again. When they don’t come back at suppertime, the parents are extremely worried and a search party is taken up. All they find is Adam Roy, no trace of the other children anywhere.
Adam is in shock, up a tree, and his shoes and socks soaked in blood not his own. Apparently, the socks were soaked in the blood and the blood bled through to the shoes. Search parties continued, the police detectives were called in, but no hide or hair was ever found of the other children.
Adam and his family moved away, the parents sending him to boarding school in England. Adam changes his name from Adam to his middle name, Rob, and destroys all evidence that “Adam” existed.
He went on to become a police detective, getting on the murder squad like he always wished. A woman, Cassie Maddox, gets transferred on to murder squad and none of the guys trust her or like her. Rob thinks about getting it on with Cassie, but after she completely roasts him the two become best friends and partners.
One day they are wasting time when a case comes up and Cassie grabs it. The two get sent to the crime scene of a murdered child in the woods of Knocknaree, the very place that Adam’s friends disappeared.
They get to the Woods and talk to those that found the 12-year old. An archeological dig is going on before the area is destroyed for a new freeway. The girl was discovered on an old Druid ceremonial rock. She was hit in the head twice, asphyxiated by a plastic bag over the head, and raped post-mortem with a wooden handle.
Everything about it seems off. Why showcase the dead body instead of burying it or throwing it in the river? Why was it planned to bring a rock to hit her, but her being barely knocked on the head having to finish her off with asphyxiation?
Things get stranger when they look at the family. The girl turns out to be Katy Devlin, daughter of Jonathan Devlin–the same Jonathan that Rob remembers from his childhood. He was a bad guy-smoking cigarettes, doing nothing, raping a woman. This colors Rib’s view of him as he immediately dislikes him.
The family is odd though. Jonathan loved and idolized his daughter Katy and is heartbroken that she is dead, his favorite daughter.
Margaret Devlin, the wife, is really out of it, it seems as if she is on drugs. Aunt Vera, her sister, acts like the creepy grandma in Flowers in the Attic, skulking around.
The other two daughters are strange as well. Katy’s twin Jessica is so out of it-doesn’t talk, hardly moves, just stares blankly into space…
Rosalind the eldest, seems upset, but also like she isn’t really that upset. She’s dramatic, treats Rob like a lover and is just odd. Like she is pretending to be older than her years.
The archeologists are just as strange. The absent-minded archeologist leader is scatter-brained, out of touch, and doesn’t know which way is up-but manages to put on a well oiled plan of excavation.
Mark, one of the other archeologists-angry, sharp, mean, an atheist, and yet performs druid libations on the stones.
Damian, another archeologist, and a quiet little boy who could be knocked over by a leaf.
Then there are the people who are pushing the freeway, they threatened the Devlins as Jonathan is the leader of the freeway protest.
And of course, her body was found on a Druid sacrificial stone-so is it cult related?
Roy, Cassie, and Detective Sam O’Neil are searching for the truth but find it opening up all kinds of wounds and secrets. Not only is the murder of a child extremely hard, but Sam loses his innocence as he discovers the people he trusted were not on the straight and narrow as he thought; Cassie has to deal with the domestic abuse and manipulations she faced on the past and things in the present are bringing up flashbacks; and Rob-well he has gone back to the place he never wanted to again-Knocknaree.
Will they discover the truth or will it stay unsolved as Jamie and Peter’s murder was?
Thoughts After Reading:
So I didn’t like this book. Adam/Rob is our narrator and admits in the beginning of the book that he is liar so it is hard to trust him. He reminds me a lot of Holden in Catcher in the Rye, so annoying.
It reminded me a bit of Moby-Dick, the summary is more interesting than the actual novel as the main character is annoying and constantly waxing on about his philosophy or random thoughts. It is even more annoying as he is a detective that does very little detecting.
It is like really dude? Get to work!
He is such a man child as he describes the best two years of his life was when he was living in a room doing nothing while Charlie was going to university and Charlie was disgusted with his lifestyle and the mess of a house? Plus he complains he has to rent a room from Heather (who mothers him in a lot of ways) as there is no place for him to afford and he is saving to move out when Cassie has her own apartment and moved there after him and presumably makes the same amount of money.
He’s also a complete narcissist, only caring about himself. He hates visiting his parents and seeing them, only cares about how they relate to him, thinks everything has to do with him, everyone is talking about him, etc.
We all know how they think highly of themselves, and only themselves, but Rob also exhibits this:
- Become impatient or angry when they don’t receive special treatment
- Have significant interpersonal problems and easily feel slighted
- React with rage or contempt and try to belittle the other person to make themselves appear superior
- Have difficulty regulating emotions and behavior
- Experience major problems dealing with stress and adapting to change
- Feel depressed and moody because they fall short of perfection
- Have secret feelings of insecurity, shame, vulnerability and humiliation
Plus I hated the ending. The death of Katy had a great twist bit but they never tell you what happened to Jamie and Peter. Ugh, so infuriating!!!
For more mysteries with child disappearances, go to The Key to Midnight
For more Saint Patrick’s Day recipes, go to Irish Potato Pie
For more mysteries, go to The Thumb Mark of St. Peter