What Lies in the Woods

What Lies in the Woods
Published: 2023-01-17

Secrets, secrets are no fun.

Naomi, Olivia, and Cassie were 11 years old when they were brutally attacked in the woods by a well-known and hunted serial killer who was also wanted for the deaths of countless other women.  The woods: once their safe-haven, once their backdrop to live out their fantasy game of spirits, potions, dungeons, and goddesses.  The woods: the place where their lives would change forever.  The woods: the link that would always connect them to each other.  The woods: the keeper of so many secrets and lies.  They have tried to move on, each in their own way.  When the girls, now adults, received phone calls from the authorities that their attacker had died in prison, the news should have brought them a sense of peace and closure.  Instead, it caused them to revisit the past, both physically and figuratively, and caused them to question the stories they had told detectives, lawyers, juries, and themselves. When Olivia contacts Cassie and Naomi and tells them she must come clean about one of their deepest and darkest secrets, the girls can’t help but think their actual reality and perceived reality is about to be turned upside down.  Naomi, especially, questions her memory of events as she was the one who suffered the most physical injuries in the attack.  On her quest to find truth and a release from the burden of living with the knowledge that her testimony put a man in prison for the rest of his life, Naomi starts to uncover more parts to the story that cause her to question her memory, her family, and her friends.  The more she more she finds out, the more she questions; and the more she questions, the more she wraps herself in a dangerous web of lies.

Trigger warnings: Language, death, suicide, murder, mythological stories involving potions/spells/sacrifices, sexual content

Why I read it: Book of the month pick

WOW.  This book was intense!  I have read so many thrillers that sometimes I feel kind of numb to their twists and shock factors (does that ever happen to anyone else?), but this one quite literally had me on the edge of my seat.  I was guessing until the very end.  I found myself thinking, “Ok, clearly there is more below the surface of what I’m reading.”  A few times I thought I had it figured out, and then found I might be half right, then I found out I was only a little right.  The ending is complicated because there is a LOT going on and a lot happening, but it’s simple to follow.

I loved how it took a “peeling the onion” approach.  The author only revealed little pieces of the mystery at a time and even used flashbacks to tell parts of the story.  As a reader, I love the feeling of knowing in your gut a character is not what they appear, but then the writer does such a great job explaining away certainties that you end up questioning yourself (even if you know you’re right).  The back and forth journey on which the author takes the reader is done in an such an effective way because, even though the answer is not revealed until the very end of the book, the reader is still clear on what is happening on the narrator’s journey to find the truth.

The only reason this book didn’t earn the second half of the star to give it a full five star rating is because I didn’t love the main character.  Naomi (the main character and narrator) is self-destructive and, while I get why the author chose to give her those attributes, I just feel like ascribing those kinds of self- destructive characteristics to a character with a troubled past and a less than ideal upbringing has been done so many times.  Again, I get the author’s reasoning, and I do find it believable.  It just feels like it has been done so many times.

If you like fast-paced thrillers that keep you guessing until the very end, you can’t go wrong with this book!

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