The story is set in Ireland - near Dublin to be precise. Adam 'Rob' Ryan is a detective with the murder squad. He is also a survivor. Twenty years ago, aged twelve, he was playing in the woods with two friends when something happened. His two friends disappeared, never to be seen again, and Adam was found against the trunk of a tree, his shoes full of blood, rips on the back of his T shirt, terrified out of his mind. He remembers nothing of what happened and the police never solved the crime. Twenty years later the body of a twelve year old girl is found in the same spot, close to an archaelogical dig. 'Rob' gets himself assigned to the case. The only person who knows who he really is, is his partner, Cassie, and Rob keeps it that way. The case proves complicated. All kinds of secrets come to light and all the time there is the brooding presence of the wood, affecting Rob's mind, as he tries to remember what happened twenty years ago.
I believe this is Tana French's debut novel. If so it's a splendid debut! She tells the story in the first person, from Rob's point of view, and as such it becomes a very personal story. 'His' story. He's flawed, there's no doubt about it, and we see him warts and all but at the same time it's very easy to see where he's coming from. The author does a fantastic job of getting right inside his head; nothing he does seems that bizarre to the reader.
I liked very much the mix of the cold case scenario and the present day crime, I thought that worked very well indeed. And the setting of the woods was particularly well done. The author used that to frightening effect, reminding me slightly of The Blair Witch movie! I didn't actually guess who the perpetrator of the crime was but I did guess another crucial factor. It didn't spoil it for me in any way because it was fascinating seeing how the author went about revealing this fact and as the reader you kind of wanted to give 'Rob' a good shake and say, 'Look... see what's in front of you, for goodness sake!'
On Amazon there are a few comments about the book's ending. I know what they're referring to and I see what they mean, but I'm not sure how these people failed to understand exactly what happened. It was quite obvious to me and I loved that the author did what she did. Not saying another thing. I loved this book, it might not be to the taste of those who like their crime books to be straightforward, but if you like a psychological sort of yarn that's a bit spooky and where the main characters are very flawed, then this book is for you.