“The set up
Rob Ryan suffered a traumatic event in 1984 when he was 12-years old and has no memory of it 20 years later. He's a detective on the Dublin Murder Squad and is assigned to a case back in the place where he experienced his nightmare. The only person who is aware of his past connection is his partner, Cassie Maddox and they have an extraordinary relationship. They now must solve the murder of a 12-year old girl, Katy Devlin, while trying to figure out if there's any relationship to the old case.
Rob never divulges that he's the boy from the 1984 case and Cassie has his back in keeping this information secret. As they pursue the angles of the case, it is increasingly difficult for Rob to keep his personal issues from overlapping. The current case is problematic as there's no apparent, likely motive for Katy's murder.
Initially, the analyses of both cases, told from Rob's first-person point of view, was highly intriguing. After all this time he still has no recollection of what happened to him and the disappearance of his two best friends that were with him. And, his relationship with his partner made the police procedural aspects even more interesting. The author certainly has great writing skills as each character was clearly well developed, almost to a fault.
What didn't work
This was not only the exploration of two murder cases but also the analysis of the main character, Rob Ryan. It didn't work to try to do both. A mystery needs to be taut, suspenseful and move at a pretty good pace in order to follow the path to solving the case. When you try to combine this with the inner angst of the main character using a first-person narrative, you end up with a bogged down story that produced endless pages of minutia that weren't always relevant. It was a 500-page story that should have been told in about 300. When I got to the end all I felt was relief it was over. I didn't like Rob, finding him extremely self obsessed, nor did I like how the cases were concluded. It never bothers me when a story's ending is inconclusive, if it's true to how the characters and tale unfold. That wasn't true here and I felt like my time was wasted with this story...left adrift without anything to anchor me on what was worthy of six days of reading time.
The bottom line
This book has won numerous, lofty awards and I was excited to start it. If it hadn't been selected as a group read (I was responsible for leading the discussion), it would have been the second book in my life that I wouldn't have finished. The character analysis and the procedural aspects of the case are really extraordinary...it just didn't work to try to combine the two objectives in one book. I tired of Rob's issues and skimmed to read about the cases. The last 1/4 of the book was very good and moved at a pace I'm normally accustomed to seeing. It's certainly controversial as there seems to be an equal number of detractors and supporters. If you decide to read it, be prepared for an uneasy and lengthy read. I wasn't.
“The last hundred pages are page turners. First couple hundred are good; great character development. Ending was somewhat disappointing.”Louie wrote this review Thursday, October 24, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“This is a very well written page turner, more than just murder mystery in many ways. It would have been 5 stars but I am a stickler for endings and although this book had a rather looonnng ending, there were a few loose ends that left me wondering. That said, perhaps this was the intent of the author. I will definitely read more of her work.”CreativeGlo wrote this review Monday, October 21, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
Warning: This review contains spoilers so read at your own discretion!
An intense if predictable mystery, excellent characterization and an engrossing writing style (although it can get tedious at times due to the narrator's internal ramblings).
Tana French is very skilled at both character construction and, as it turns out, deconstruction. The humor and banter between Cassie and Rob makes their relationship the highlight of the book and more than compensates for some of the more descriptive and long winded passages. Rob starts out as a likable hero and his traumatic past easily evokes the reader's sympathy. However, as the story progresses, he embarks on a slow and annoying psychological decline that ultimately destroys the single most important connection is his life, and ends up marring the story as a whole.
The mystery is actually divided into two cases - the 1984 disappearance of two children in the woods surrounding Knocknoree, Ireland and the discovery of a young girl's body in the same woods in the present day. Throughout the book, French consistently builds the connection between these two events but the links turn out to be superficial at best and only one of the mysteries is resolved, which may leave readers disappointed.
With regard to the mystery of Katy Devlin's murder, the villain is glaringly obvious from the first and while there are one or two surprises along the way, it still amazes me that the detectives took so long (almost 16 hours of listening time) to figure it out as the clues and the motive were all but smacking them in the face!
That said, the revelations are profoundly thought provoking and it is impossible to come away from the book without feeling intensely about the characters and the story.
In sum, the book is well-written and worth reading but might not appeal to readers, like myself, who prefer a sense of closure and justice in their mysteries and thrillers. ”
“Summary - As dusk approaches a small Dublin suburb in the summer of 1984, mothers begin to call their children home. But on this warm evening, three children do not return from the dark and silent woods. When the police arrive, they find only one of the children gripping a tree trunk in terror, wearing blood-filled sneakers, and unable to recall a single detail of the previous hours.
Twenty years later, the found boy, Rob Ryan, is a detective on the Dublin Murder Squad and keeps his past a secret. But when a twelve-year-old girl is found murdered in the same woods, he and Detective Cassie Maddox—his partner and closest friend—find themselves investigating a case chillingly similar to the previous unsolved mystery. Now, with only snippets of long-buried memories to guide him, Ryan has the chance to uncover both the mystery of the case before him and that of his own shadowy past.
My Review - This novel really drew me in at the beginning. The characters seemed very real – and making some bad decisions along the way. But I’m very annoyed because the ending doesn’t close the gap so to speak. I felt like the author opened a mystery and had no idea of how to bring it to closure. ”
“This was just an OK read. I felt too much time was spent on what turned out to be pretty much an irrelevant aspect of the story. I did enjoy the author's style and flair. I also felt the novel was unnecessarily long. My intention was to continue on with her next two but now not encouraged to do so.”Ron C wrote this review Thursday, October 31, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Keeps you going. Interesting ending.”Swanem wrote this review Monday, September 23, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Not quite sure whether I liked this story or not. I liked Cassie, I thought her character was great. Same with Sam. The mystery was intriguing as well, although I was able to figure out part of it about halfway through the book. It's the ending that bothers me; I feel like there's still loose ends, and I finished feeling rather unsatisfied. So overall, it was okay, but a little unsatisfying.”spirolim wrote this review Friday, September 20, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Rob Ryan is a police officer on the murder squad. When he was 12 Ryan's two best friends disappeared from the woods in Knocknaree and Rob is foudn clinging to a tree with blood in his shoes and no memory of what happened. Now Rob and his partner Cassie are called to the scene of a child murder that occured near those same woods and may be connected. A good mystery though like the other book of hers I've read I found it bogged down in the middle and the ending was unsattisfactory.”Rachel H wrote this review Monday, September 9, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No