I really, REALLY wanted to like Rob Ryan. He's the narrator in Tana French's debut psychological suspense novel who takes us on a journey through his flawed memory and (even more flawed?) personality as a detective investigating a 12-year-old girl's murder in the same woods where his two childhood friends disappeared two decades earlier. Sometimes he tries a little too hard to string together witty metaphors, but that can easily be forgiven in a character who tells you upfront that police lie:

"The truth is the most desirable woman in the world and we are the most jealous lovers, reflexively denying anyone else the slightest glimpse of her. We betray her routinely, spending hours and days stupor-deep in lies, and then turn back to her holding out the lover's ultimate Mobius strip: But I only did it because I love you so much.
"I have a pretty knack for imagery, especially the cheap, facile kind. Don't let me fool you into seeing us as a bunch of parfit gentil knights galloping off in doublets after Lady Truth on her white palfrey. What we do is crude, crass and nasty."

See? Since I am the person who once dealt with the stress of writing about a juvenile pimping trial by watching several hours of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, he had me hooked by the end of the second page. And kept me wound around his little finger until the middle of the book when we slowly begin to learn the truth about Rob Ryan:

: : : spoiler alert : : :

He has the regrettable habit of shutting women out after he sleeps with them once - which causes his relationship with Cassie to implode. His narration includes a few half-hearted but likely honest explanations for his bad behavior toward Cassie, but months later, when he calls her to tell her he loves her, she pretends he's got the wrong number and he listens as she climbs back in bed with her boyfriend. He wonders if she realizes she didn't hang up the phone and whether she was trying to hurt him or simply giving him the peace of listening to her sleep one more time. 

(Get a clue, buddy. When her boyfriend asked who was on the phone, she said some guy saying he loved her. But it turned out he was looking for someone named Britney. Yes, she knew you were still on the line, and yes, she probably wouldn't have been upset if you were hurt.)

Oh -- and he gets sucked in by the victim's psychopathic sister and manages to muck up the investigation against the teen who isn't quite legally an adult. Then, he tries to tell us readers that we got sucked in by her, too. As some readers pointed out here, they didn't. And we're left not liking the main character we started out adoring.

We readers are also left hating that French doesn't solve the original mystery. 

Overall, I'm OK with the book's lack of resolution (and so is this reader). 

1) We don't get to know everything about life, anyway; 2) We get to see several mythical motifs surrounding the murder site. I don't think there's any significance to that other than the fact that humans tend to look to myths and the supernatural when they can't explain things; and 3) We all kind of toy with the idea that Ryan is responsible for his friends' disappearances, but in the end, he's not a manipulative psychopath or else we wouldn't all think he's a bit of a loser. He didn't have any real motive for making them disappear, and if anything, I'm willing to bet he panicked or just stood there when something bad happened to them.

But that's just me. We'll have to wait to see if French decides to explain it in a sequel...

Or I might read it again to see what I missed.
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