In the Woods Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of In the Woods

A detective in suburban Dublin, who is haunted by a childhood incident he cannot remember, is called to investigate the murder of a young girl. Detective Rob Ryan and his partner and best friend, detective Cassie Maddox are called to solve the murder of a young girl, Katy Devlin, whose body is found near the woods of Knocknaree. Rob and Cassie arrive on the scene and discuss Rob's connection to the forest. Cassie in one of the few people Rob has confided in about his past. As a child, he and friends disappeared in these woods and he was later found with his shoes full of blood and no memory of what happened to him. The detectives learn that Katy's body was found, covered by a tarp, on the site of a student archaeological dig. The detectives examine the body and interview the students, including the young man who found Katy's body.
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That night, Rob and Cassie spend time together drinking wine. The two are close friends and through romantic feelings seem to be taking shape, they are not romantically involved, though they are aware that colleagues suspect they may be hiding a relationship. Cassie offers Rob support as she knows that investigating a child's murder in the very place he may have once been abducted will be very difficult for him. Indeed, Rob finds himself thinking of his mysterious past more than he has in years and he wonders whether the tow cases could be connected.

Rob and Cassie go to the Devlin home to speak with Katy's family. Mr. and Mrs. Devlin seem shellshocked and utterly devasted. They perk up just a bit when their older daughter, Katy's charismatic older sister Rosalind, arrives home. Rosalind is happy to tell the detectives more about her sister, mentioning Katy's love of dance classes, and says that she too danced at Katy's age. Rob reflects that the older couple is lucky to have a vivacious daughter to keep them from utter despair.

Rob and Cassie continue to analyze evidence from the crime scene. They spend more time together than usual, often working very late, then seamlessly moving on to drinks where they discuss the case further. Their romantic connection grows, but Rob feels unable to completely open up to Cassie. He is weighed down by his past and can't stop thinking that the answer to both mysteries lies in the woods.

Both detectives are very surprised when the student who found Katy's body confesses to the murder. When they bring him in to the station and interview him further, he tells the detectives that he has been dating Rosalind, Katy's older sister. The detectives are surprised by this because the attractive and poised Rosalind seems out of this student's league. Something about the confession does not sit right with Cassie and she insists that the investigation continue. The detectives find evidence that Katy was killed inside the shed where students work, and then moved outside to where she was found the next morning.

The detectives talk to Katy's family again and to the teacher at the dance school, who seems strange when Rosalind's name is brought up. Cassie asks Rosalind about her romantic involvement with the student who has confessed to killing her sister and Rosalind changes the topic by telling Cassie she can tell that Cassie is involved with Rob. Cassie tells Rob that she feels Rosalind is holding back information, but Rob seems more sympathetic to the young woman.

Cassie is frustrated by Rob's attentions seeming to drift and knows he is distracted by his own past. She carries out a plan of her own. Cassie believes that Rosalind is a psychopath and wears her charm as an effective disguise to manipulate everyone around her. Cassie thinks she can get Rosalind to confess because this type of criminal loves to brag about their crimes. Wearing a recording device, she gets Rosalind alone and tells her that she was right, Cassie is indeed involved with Rob. Cassie flatters Rosalind, telling her she is a savvy reader of people and that she has committed a perfect crime, since the police have a confession already. Rosalind does indeed tell Cassie the gruesome details of the crime. Roaslind tells Cassie she hated her sister Katy who got attention for being younger and who was given more opportunities to continue with dance school. Rosalind manipulated the student into killing her sister and when he failed to leave evidence of sexual assault, Rosalind went to the crime scene herself and did unspeakable things to her sister's body to make sure the police got the impression that the murderer was a male.

Rob tells Cassie he is stunned by the truth and never saw it coming. Cassie tells Rob he, like many others, was blinded by Rosalind's manipulations, in part because he clearly found her physically attractive. This case has now come between the two detectives and their easy manner with each other now feels complicated. Cassie transfers to another location. Rob at first is still too mired in the past to realize how devastating her loss is to him. As the story ends, Rob has heard through colleagues that Cassie met and married another police officer. He realizes that he will probably never know the truth about his own childhood and that he has let that get in his way.
Best part of story, including ending: I loved this story because it built a lot of suspense and surprised me when Rosalind was revealed to be the murderer.

Best scene in story: My favorite scene in the story is when Cassie gets Rosalind to tell her the truth. I was shocked by the darkness of Rosalind's horrific crime and surprised that a young woman would be depicted doing such things, which I found darkly entertaining.

Opinion about the main character: I did not especially like Rob Ryan because he seemed self-involved. I did like Detective Cassie Maddox and hoped that Rob Ryan would recognize her as the catch I felt she was.

The review of this Book prepared by Bonnie a Level 2 American Robin scholar

Chapter Analysis of In the Woods

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Plot & Themes

Composition of Book descript. of violence and chases 10%Planning/preparing, gather info, debate puzzles/motives 50%Feelings, relationships, character bio/development 30%How society works & physical descript. (people, objects, places) 10% Tone of story    -   suspenseful (sophisticated fear) How difficult to spot villain?    -   Difficult, but some clues given Time/era of story:    -   2000+ (Present) What % of story relates directly to the mystery, not the subplot?    -   90% Special suspect?    -   relative Murder of certain profession?    -   "All in the family" murder Misc. Murder Plotlets    -   "All in the family" murder Kind of investigator    -   police procedural, Foreign Kid or adult book?    -   Adult or Young Adult Book Any non-mystery subplot?    -   amnesia Crime Thriller    -   Yes Murder Mystery (killer unknown)    -   Yes Amnesia story?    -   Yes

Main Character

Gender    -   Male Profession/status:    -   police/lawman Age:    -   20's-30's Ethnicity/Race    -   White/American


Europe    -   Yes European country:    -   Ireland Forest?    -   Yes

Writing Style

Accounts of torture and death?    -   moderately detailed references to deaths Explicit sex in book?    -   Yes What kind of sex:    -   touching of anatomy    -   use of artificial tools    -   rape (yeech!) Amount of dialog    -   roughly even amounts of descript and dialog

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Tana French Books Note: the views expressed here are only those of the reviewer(s).
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