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Murder Among Friends

Our Book Discussion on "In the Woods" by Tana French

In The Woods by Tana French graphic


MAF attendees this St. Patrick’s Day barely got seated before diving into discussion of our (highly appropriate!) Irish author’s Dublin Murder Squad novel. We begin this summary, therefore, with a spoiler, since the discussion on this was a major part of the evening’s topics.

Click here to read the spoiler.

We all understood Rob’s trust and intimacy issues, but were sorry he wasn’t able to overcome them in his dealings with his partner, Cassie Maddox. The group really liked Cassie, and felt that on the whole, she is much better off with the relationship she’s in at the end of the novel. This is particularly true since the cracks in the wall Rob built to block his childhood trauma, are even deeper at the end than they were at the start. We liked Cassie’s forthright manner, her instincts in dealing with key characters – especially Rosalind! – and her compassion for Rob.

One member pointed out that there were key points where sloppy police work was what kept them from solving the crime earlier in the novel. Things like not following up on finding Katy’s diary, and the huge mistake of allowing Rob to continue investigating when his personal history should have eliminated him.

Members couldn’t get over the truly evil, psychopathic Rosalind, and how Rob’s preconceptions and leaning toward, small, child-like women led Rob to not only disallow her as a suspect, but enabled her to get key information from him, that in the end, breaks his friendship with Cassie and leads to his downfall as a cop. We felt she was scarily believable, and that this type of psychopath is the hardest to identify: completely amoral and self-interested, they seem normal, but hide a monster inside.

We talked about the author’s liking for stories that “experiment outside the boundaries [of classic mysteries]… on the ragged edge where genre conventions meet reality – a reality in which people are flawed and contradictory, justice isn’t  always done, truth is a complicated thing, and the search for answers doesn’t always have a happy ending.” She goes on to say that “They’re not as comforting as the tidier, more unequivocal books in which good triumphs and evil is punished, but they’re the ones that capture me, the ones that stay in my mind.”   ~ Courtesy of

While the group agrees that French more that succeeds at these goals in this book, we have a clear desire to have more resolution on the point in our spoiler, and that we are all glad that she does plan to address Rob’s predicament in a future book. The fact that the next book features Cassie, sent members to the shelves for The Likeness both to see what happens with Cassie and Sam – but in hopes of further tidbits on Rob. We ended with talking about the appeal of not only reading across mystery’s sub-genres, but of trying different writers’ approaches to those sub-genres.

Next time we’ll be exploring crime in the Boston area again with Hank Phillippi Ryan – who is coming to join the discussion!! We’re meeting a week earlier than normal to make this happen, because a visit with Hank is always a major – and fun! – event.


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