Friday, July 26, 2013

In the Deep Woods (1989)

By: Nicholas Conde

Genre: Fiction, Thriller, Mystery, Suspense

Children’s book author and illustrator, Carol Warren, never expected something like this could happen to her. She’d lived a normal life filled with good friends and family as well as success as an author. Everything changes when her best friend is found brutally murdered and Carol becomes involved in the investigation. At first she just wants answers about who killed her friend, but once she realizes someone she loves is a suspect, she will do whatever it takes to prove his innocence, even if it risks her own life.

The first thing I liked about this book is the heroine, Carol. Most books in this vein are focused on getting the heroine to fall for some hunky man working with her on the case and spawning an erotic romance as a side story, but that isn’t the case here. In fact, while Carol may date a few men in the novel, she’s not in the market for romance, and, actually, finds it very hard to get in the mood for it due to the dreadful crimes committed in the case. That is something that makes a lot more sense to me. Carol is also successful and independent, only relying on herself, and she has a great deal of self-respect and loyalty to her friends and family. However, this loyalty could also blind her to what is going on around her.

I also liked the fact that she had her own worries outside of the mystery, such as her father’s failing health and the fact that she’ll probably have to put him in a nursing home. She and her brother discuss it and wonder if it’s the right thing to do – and it’s very hard for Carol to imagine being ripped from her home in her final years. She has a very kind heart, loving deeply and honestly those who are close to her, and I felt for her in making that decision.

I thought the story was very suspenseful, and I whipped right through the novel because I needed to know what happened next. Is the killer who the police believe it to be, or is it an elaborate frame job? Was Carol really in danger of becoming the killer’s next target?

I also liked the scenes from the killer’s point of view and how he was styled. He is definitely creepy, especially in the point-of-view scene where he has his victim tied up in the woods and prepares to torture her. He reminds me a lot of Ted Bundy – how he uses the ruse of being somehow handicapped in order to gain the sympathy and trust of a would-be victim, and then gets the better of them. Also, his final act of murder as he begins to lose control toward the end of the novel is an obvious nod to the murders of nursing students committed by Richard Speck in the 1960s. The Green River Killer is mentioned in comparison to the killer in this novel, but I feel that there aren’t many similarities, aside from where the bodies are found.

I liked how the book dealt with the idea that a family member or friend that you’ve known your entire life could turn out to be a serial killer. Carol has to deal with the fact that the police believe her brother is the Deep Woods Killer, and another character reveals that they have a family member guilty of such atrocities. Even having someone in your family suspected of such crimes can do a number on the rest of the family, and of course, the suspect themselves – as despite the saying, “innocent until proven guilty,” in the public eye, it’s often guilty until proven innocent.

I’m not sure how I feel about the character of Paul Miller. He goes to elaborate lengths to disguise his true self and true intentions from Carol, despite asking her to trust and help him in his investigation. I can’t describe such over-the-top instances of this without giving away spoilers, but I can say that it is hard to accept that someone would go that far to keep up a façade. These actions felt like they belonged in some espionage thriller, not a murder mystery. Also, it was because of his constant lies that I couldn’t bring myself to like him by the end of the novel. I found myself falling for his lies along with Carol, so I felt equally betrayed when I would find out he was just spinning another web of deception.

The other thing I didn’t really like was the ending – I found it rather anti-climactic. I wanted a dramatic show-down between Carol and the killer, and instead it is over in an instant. I felt a bit let down after all of that built-up tension and hours of reading.

Overall, it’s definitely a great read and I recommend it for mystery buffs. It’s very suspenseful and keeps you guessing until the final few chapters, and even then, I was hoping there would be some twist and it would turn out to be someone else. Still, it was a well-written mystery that kept my attention, and I would probably read it again.


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