Goodreads summary of In the Woods:
A 12-year-old girl is found murdered at an archaeological site at the center of a controversial highway construction project. Katy Devlin was a popular girl who had recently been accepted to the Royal Ballet School; her father is an outspoken opponent of the new roadway. But what haunts Detective Rob Ryan about this case is its location: the quiet town of Knocknaree, Ireland -- in the very woods where he used to play as a child.
Twenty years ago, a young Rob and his two best friends went into the woods, chasing each other, playing in a castle of ruins. But they didn't return to their homes at sunset. A search party was dispatched to canvas the woods, finding only a catatonic Rob clawing at a tree, his clothing ripped, his shoes filled with blood.
Detective Ryan has always guarded this secret of his past, but the recent murder forces him to reveal it to his new partner, drawing them closer together in the search for the perpetrator. Is there a connection between Rob's childhood trauma and Katy Devlin's murder? And is Detective Ryan prepared to confront the secrets that lie deep in those woods? Suspects abound in this fast-paced mystery -- a stunning debut that examines the complexities of the human mind and the cost of discovering the truth.
In this well-written and delightfully creepy psychological thriller, you realize from the opening of the prologue that this is not your typical police mystery:
"Picture a summer stolen whole from some coming-of-age film set in small-town 1950s. This is none of Ireland’s subtle seasons mixed for a connoisseur’s palate, watercolor nuances within a pinch-sized range of cloud and soft rain; this is summer full-throated and extravagant in hot pure silkscreen blue."
I loved the depth of the main characters (and secondary too)! Thankfully, the author didn't create too-good-to-be-true individuals...instead their flaws were shown as prominently as their virtues and you loved them all the more for it. Rob and Cassie are wonderfully realistic and their banter is so much fun to read. In fact, I became so attached I hoped that she might reuse the characters in subsequent novels...and thankfully, Cassie is resurrected in French's next book The Likeness.
The wooded setting also seemed to be a sinister character unto itself and got my heart thumping on more than one occasion. The storyline was chilling, kept me guessing and, unfortunately for my vanity, had me chewing my nails down to nubs!
Overall, I highly recommend! The themes and characters haunted me long after I finished the book...