Tana French has written a wonder of a book. A writer’s dream. Many accolades. Many stellar reviews. Prizes. Bestsellerdom. All thoroughly well-deserved in my eyes. So why should I feel an overpowering need to spring to her defense? Having just finished IN THE WOODS, I clicked onto reader reviews on the Amazon and Barnes and Noble websites and was totally unprepared for the number of derisive comments. Ah, the public are a cruel and fickle lot. And whiney. Spoiled babies. “We’re not sure what we want, but we know we want it! And we want it now. And it had better be easy.”
These negative reviews sulked about the following: 1) The lack of a pat ending; 2) The inclusion of a confusing subplot; 3) Too much description; 4) The narrator was not a “nice” guy. Therefore, to those mystery-loving readers who so disliked this literary thriller, see what you think of these clues and try to crack the case of why you hated this book.
Your first clue is the fact that this novel was published as a trade paperback rather than as a mass market Walmart read, pronouncing itself to be potentially thought-provoking. The classy black and white matte cover with its artsy calligraphy, rather than a lurid glossy jacket is the second. The cast of well-defined adult characters (not caricatures) sneaks in as the third. The fourth and most telling clue is French’s writing style itself, a marvel of insouciant elegance --- delicious observations and descriptions casually dropped before the reader as additional treats. (I gobbled them up like the candy that they were.) Mystery solved! This book is far more complex than you had anticipated, far too mature. Grow up, readers! If you want a “Wham, bam, thank you ma’m” mystery, you must learn how to find the proper shelf.
In the famous Victorian exchange between Oscar Wilde and James Whistler, Wilde upon hearing a witticism from Whistler says, “I wish I’d said that.” Whistler quips, “You will, Oscar. You will.” Tana French writes such a lyrical line, tossing in abundant intelligent asides, her passages not overwritten yet well-framed and stated with such authority, that I found myself thinking, “I wish I’d said that.” Although I am an unknown writer, still unpublished, I assure you I do not remember thinking that anytime in recent memory.
So Tana French, this ordinary reader agrees with the big guys and let those dissenters go back to their revolving mass market racks.
(Reviewer’s disclaimer: This title contains the dreaded prologue, as does my own novel. Tsk.)
Causes Mara Buck Supports
Kennebec Valley Humane Society, Amnesty International