In the Woods takes place in Ireland - hello, love me a foreign location for my murder mysteries!- and the narrator is Rob Ryan, a detective who investigates the murder of a 12 year old girl in his hometown. The same hometown where, twenty years earlier, he and his two childhood friends go into the woods but two of them never make it out again. Rob is eventually found in the woods, but has no recollection of what happened. Soooo basically you get two murder mysteries in one!
This was a really fun, engaging book (though a little verbose and too much attention on side characters). And I am DYING to talk about the ending. Major spoilers ahead!!!
-So the present day murder mystery gets solved but we never find out what happens to Rob's childhood friends. Some theories floating around the internet posit that Rob was actually the killer. We learn that he was bigger than his two friends. And as the novel and murder mystery unfold, we see that Rob can be cold and heartless. He also becomes enamored with Rosalind and seems to miss that she's a psychopath, making readers wonder if that means he himself is a psychopath
-I'm not really swayed by the Rob is a murderer conjecture. I think that he's a disturbed person but only because the Katy Devlin murder unravels these deep rooted traumas. Also, the difference between how he reacts and how Rosalind reacts is a huge indication that he is not a psychopath. Rosalind is basically proud of herself for pulling off this murder and doesn't care about the consequences. Meanwhile, Rob can't remember what happened but he clearly cares and is affected by it.
-Another theory is that some forest beast captured and killed the children. There are accounts by Rob and Jonathan Devlin and Sandra about hearing strange laughter and ghastly noises the day the children went missing. While there are mystical elements to the book - like the archeological dig, Katy's body found on a sacrificial stone, etc - I don't think the children's disappearance have a supernatural cause. Everything else about the book is so psychological and methodical, especially Cassie with her psychology profiling, that a supernatural reason just seems antithetical to the tone of the book.
-Maybe the two cases are meant to show the two sides of murder and death. Rosalind's storyline is about how you can be a cold and calculating murderer. Whereas Rob's is all animalistic and savage (the beast noises, the arrow artifact with the man beast symbol).
-This is why I think the killer is Cathals. He is both savage and calculating. We see that he's capable of brutally assaulting women and being a successful businessman. When Cassie labels him a psychopath, I think we're supposed to register that he's just like Rosalind. He doesn't care if he murders two kids as long as it serves him. Maybe he gets his friend to help him do the dirty work the way Rosalind gets Damien.
Will have to mull on this some more!!