In the Woods

In the Woods

by Tana French

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The bestselling debut with over a million copies sold that launched Tana French, “required reading for anyone who appreciates tough, unflinching intelligence and ingenious plotting” (The New York Times), who is “the most interesting, most important crime novelist to emerge in the past 10 years” (The Washington Post)

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.

Richly atmospheric and stunning in its complexity, In the Woods is utterly convincing and surprising to the end.

I picked up In the Woods because I wanted to read the second book in the Dublin Murder Squad series, The Likeness, and I can’t read the second book in a series without reading the first..first. I just can’t. So In the Woods was pushed to the top of my TBR.

I’m going to do everything I can to avoid spoilers but guys…whew.

season 2 ugh GIF by IFC

I sat on this review for a solid 2 weeks because I’m just not sure where to start. I’m still not sure how to accurately express my feelings for In the Woods. So here it goes.

Tana French has made the list as one of my favorite authors. In the Woods is one of my top five favorite reads of 2018. And around page 300 I was yelling (out loud) at the characters. I finished this book feeling drained, angry, sad, frustrated, and still amazed. This story left me so upset that I contacted a few of my closest friends just to remind them they are loved. I still find myself fondly thinking about it on a near daily basis. In the Woods will stick with me for a long time.

I’m not going to provide any story details because it would definitely ruin the reading experience. Just know that Tana French is a FANTASTIC character writer. I didn’t realize how invested I had become in Rob and Cassie until it was too late to pull back. French provides a startling decent into the mind of a victim, the manipulation of psychopaths, and the flawed logic of humans. She doesn’t insult her readers by switching traits of her characters. Rob is no Mary Sue; he sticks to his guns for better or for worse. I appreciate this in a writer; French made these characters real!

Oh..and there are multiple murders, some archaeology, and other amazing parts that make it the perfect fall mystery. Just read it. (but make sure you have a puppy or best friend to hug afterwards ☺️)

Anyone else a Tana French fan? Please please please tell me what you think of In the Woods. Happy Reading.

Lindsay

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The Altar Girl

The Altar Girl

by Orest Stelmach

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The daughter of uncompromising Ukrainian immigrants, Nadia was raised to respect guts, grit, and tradition. When the events around the seemingly accidental death of her estranged godfather don’t add up, Nadia is determined to discover the truth—even if she attracts the attention of dangerous men intent on finding out what she knows through any means possible.

Her investigation leads her to her hometown and to the people least likely to welcome her back: her family.

In this thrilling prequel to the Nadia Tesla series, Nadia must try to solve the mystery surrounding her godfather’s death—and his life. The answers to her questions are buried with the secrets of her youth and in post–World War II refugee camps. What Nadia learns will change her life forever.

I picked up The Altar Girl via the Amazon First picks deal ages ago. The book sat in my kindle library for a rather long time awaiting the perfect reading mood. That mood arrived after a couple of draining and frustrating weeks. I didn’t want my usual choice of fun and quirky cozy mystery; I needed a grittier mystery that didn’t shy away from the darker aspects of crime. I kept coming back to The Altar Girl.

It was good; it gave me exactly what I needed in a story. Nadia is Ukrainian-American. She is the estranged child of immigrants who is struggling with her muddled sense of identification when her godfather dies. Nadia knows it wasn’t an accident. So she heads home to discover the truth, confront her family, come to terms with her upbringing, and quench her need for a greater purpose.

The Altar Girl gives us a glimpse of two separate points in Nadia’s life: the first is the current hunt for her godfather’s this murderer and the second is her attempt at 14 to be the youngest teenager to complete the wilderness survival test. Stelmach utilizes different tenses in each timeline which adds a subtle depth to Nadia. The stories seamlessly entwine; her memories dragging the reader through Nadia’s modern decisions and illuminating the familial issues that haunt her.

All of the characters were fantastically developed as Stelmach doesn’t shy away from flawed and twisted traits. Nadia struggles with the guilt of no longer being a good child. Her mother twists the truth, manipulating her children in a sick expression of self hatred. And Donnie deserves his own character case study!

The Altar Girl was a fantastic read. I have a few negative points but they are too nit-picky to discuss here. This book was thrilling, gritty, and somewhat heart wrenching. Stelmach’s subtle writing techniques, such as never mentioning the godfather by his given name, entrenched readers in the unique culture of his upbringing. I loved reading about the history of Ukrainian refugees, their struggle to survive WWII, and the development of their own community in a new country.

I was pleasantly surprised by the gritty mystery full of family drama. The Altar Girl is something I would usually shy away from, but I’ve already picked up the next book in the series. Is anyone else a fan of Orest Stelmach? Let me know what you’re reading!

Lindsay

The Silkworm

The Silkworm

by Robert Galbraith

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Private investigator Cormoran Strike returns in a new mystery from Robert Galbraith, author of the #1 international bestseller The Cuckoo’s Calling.

When novelist Owen Quine goes missing, his wife calls in private detective Cormoran Strike. At first, Mrs. Quine just thinks her husband has gone off by himself for a few days—as he has done before—and she wants Strike to find him and bring him home.

But as Strike investigates, it becomes clear that there is more to Quine’s disappearance than his wife realizes. The novelist has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen-portraits of almost everyone he knows. If the novel were to be published, it would ruin lives—meaning that there are a lot of people who might want him silenced.

When Quine is found brutally murdered under bizarre circumstances, it becomes a race against time to understand the motivation of a ruthless killer, a killer unlike any Strike has encountered before…

(originially published 10/01/2015)

The Silkworm is the second novel in Robert Galbraith’s (aka JK Rowling) Cormoran Strike mysteries. Feel free to check out my review of the first novel, The Cuckoo’s Calling

I read these novels because I love Cormoran Strike! I like that he’s tall, rough, awkward, and stands out in EVERY crowd. I like that he’s stubborn, irritable, and steadfast in his investigative techniques. The characteristics that would turn most people off make me love him all the more! I would definitely grab a pint with him.

Still, I was not really a fan of The Silkworm. There are two big points that just made the plot ‘eh’ for me. One: the relationship between Robin and Matthew just pissed me off. I just don’t understand why such a smart, independent woman would be with someone as insecure and mean as Matthew. Luckily, Robin stands up for herself and the story ends with what seems to be a healthier future for the couple. But I still found myself yelling at Matthew while reading.

Two: the main storyline, aka the mystery, was too slow for my taste. It drug on and on about Quine’s terrible novel and depressing writing career. I had a difficult time sympathizing with ANY of the ‘literary world’ characters. NONE of them were remotely likable!! Quine’s death was the most interesting aspect of the character! I feel like Galbraith was attempting to humorously releave frustrations with the literary industry but it left The Silkworm’s plot less engaging.

I still recommend the book because of Strike and his character development. Strike is no longer struggling to survive and we are able to see him fully interact with family and friends. I love that his relationship with Robin is bluntly honest and surprisingly full of trust. His self confidence is strengthening since his split with Charlotte and we meet characters that truly love Strike. We see him communicate with his aunt and uncle, who beg him to visit for Christmas. We meet his old school buddy, Chum, who’s willingness to help Strike with no strings attached leaves you wanting to buy them both a beer. And we get to meet Al, the one sibling who adores Strike just the way he is (sister Lucy constantly trying to change him gets old) All of these points make The Silkworm a worthwhile read!

Plus, the ending is AWESOME! Have you read The Silkworm? Share your thoughts!

Lindsay

The Cuckoo’s Calling

The Cuckoo’s Calling

by Robert Galbraith

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A brilliant debut mystery in a classic vein: Detective Cormoran Strike investigates a supermodel’s suicide. After losing his leg to a land mine in Afghanistan, Cormoran Strike is barely scraping by as a private investigator. Strike is down to one client, and creditors are calling. He has also just broken up with his longtime girlfriend and is living in his office.

Then John Bristow walks through his door with an amazing story: His sister, the legendary supermodel Lula Landry, known to her friends as the Cuckoo, famously fell to her death a few months earlier. The police ruled it a suicide, but John refuses to believe that. The case plunges Strike into the world of multimillionaire beauties, rock-star boyfriends, and desperate designers, and it introduces him to every variety of pleasure, enticement, seduction, and delusion known to man.

You may think you know detectives, but you’ve never met one quite like Strike. You may think you know about the wealthy and famous, but you’ve never seen them under an investigation like this.

(review originally shared 03/05/3015)

We all should know by now that Robert Galbraith is a pseudonym for J.K. Rowling, the famous author of the Harry Potter series.  I enjoyed the Harry Potter novels and was excited to see that Rowling has continued to write, but in a completely different genre.  The best compliment that I can give Galbraith/Rowling is that I didn’t think of Harry Potter once while reading The Cuckoo’s Calling! 

Cormoran Strike is a down-on-his-luck private investigator who is hired to prove that legendary supermodel, Lula Landry, did not commit suicide.  The investigation thrusts Strike in to the world of the rich and famous; a world where lies are far more common than the truth.  I listened to the audio version of The Cuckoo’s Calling and found myself sitting parked in my driveway long after I had arrived home because I couldn’t stop listening!  Galbraith has done a fantastic job with the mystery genre.

The characters are complex and well developed; I had no problem visualizing each individual.  The setting was equally developed, and I can still smell the lime air freshener Cormoran uses in his office.  I loved Cormoran Strike; of course, I have a thing for burly cop characters…so yeah.  Cormoran and Robin’s relationship still makes me smile.  The mystery progressed at a realistic rate and I was kept guessing until the very end.

I only had a couple of issues.  The first is how Strike reveals the reason behind his breakup with Charlotte.  He just spits it out.  It is an important moment and I felt it should have been rehashed for the readers.  I could have used one extra paragraph where Strike relives the moment one last time before he lets it go.  The second is when Strike meets with the killer.  I felt Strike should have actually had a plan in that moment.  I won’t say anything else because of spoilers, but you’ll know what I’m talking about when you read it.

The Cuckoos Calling is a great read!  Kudos Rowling; you’re a good mystery author.  Book two, The Silkworm is on my TBR list.  Have you read The Cuckoo’s Calling?  What do you think about Robert Galbraith/JK Rowling’s mystery novels?

Lindsay