Fact: Ireland is a Modern Country
Sad Fact: Few people outside of Ireland realize this.
Thanks to the impressions of popular culture, many Americans still tend to think of bombs, booze or leprechauns when they hear the worlds “Irish” or “Ireland”. Those who read, remember Yeats or the Potato Famine. Movie-fans recall Darby O’Gill or The Quiet Man. Few of either group think of murder.
Yet, Murder in a very modern context is the background of Tana French’s brilliant debut, In the Woods. It’s the story of Irish police working a contemporary crime site that, unfortunately, has ties to the past. It also has one of the best unreliable narrators I’ve come across in several years. Rob Ryan tells the story of when past and present collide in the head of a traumatized survivor and the damage that radiates from that impact. And he tells it in a beautiful, lyrical voice that hints but never tells you what’s what.
In the Woods is also the brilliant first novel of what is known as the “Dublin Murder Squad” series. So far, each story is told by one detective on the Squad who may (or may not) appear in later tales. Each character is brilliantly developed in their own stories so we get to see how different people view the same incidents. And we also see the toll this job takes on detectives. Thankfully, we also get to see Ireland, complete with cell phones, office buildings and the concerns and issues facing contemporary society.
Along with murder, that most ancient of crimes. Because some things, it seems, never change.