So much sadness in my heart.
This is hard, writing this review. I keep starting and scrapping. I have lots of feelings, but I don't know if I will convey them properly. This is going to be short and disjointed. It cannot be helped.
I'll start with the fact that I didn't like this book for the mystery. It's not that I didn't enjoy it at all, but it was way too easy to solve and by 1/4 of the way through, I'd called it. I remember making a comment early on about my hunches and thinking how I'd be mighty disappointed if I ended up being right. By the end of the book, though, despite my having been right, it didn't feel like such a big deal anymore. That was due, in part, to my being completely pulled in to the larger plot and the second mystery (technically, it's chronologically the first). Mostly, it was because I fell in love with the characters.
The main characters resonated deeply with me. The more I read, the more I noticed little things happening between them. Small, meaningful gestures and quiet, complex words. I was completely enthralled with them. Their friendship/relationship/partnership was far from conventional, but very realistic. A lot of their interactions hit very close to home.
The writing started off beautifully. I found it hard not to quote everything at the beginning, but be forewarned, that will taper off. It's not that writing is bad later on, but it loses that gorgeous flow that it had in the first couple of chapters. Even so, I didn't ever get bored and, despite being really busy all week, I always had this book in mind. I tried to sneak in a few pages every chance I got.
I had no choice but to lower the rating because of the very weak mystery and villain, but I still really liked this book and really loved the characters. I picked the second book up almost immediately after finishing this one. It was even better.
Despite its shortcomings, In the Woods is one of those books that stay with you long after you think you've moved on. If you're a fan of dark reads with realistic, complex characters, definitely read this one.