SURVIVOR: tree of smoke (denis johnson)*
CHALLENGER: in the woods (tana french)

this foreign thrillers thing is getting out of hand; sensing an opening after my talk of arnaldur indriĆ°ason's icelandic excellence and acceptance of the girl with the dragon tattoo, amazon has started recommending things like the indian bride (inspector sejer mysteries) and my friend megan passed me tana french's in the woods. the latter is set in knocknaree, a blustery green corner of ireland that's especially nice to read about when new york in august wants you dead, and full of good-looking dublin homicide detectives. call it a thoughtfully embellished procedural, a cross between inspector lewis** and the second season of the wire.*** one of said detectives, the unreliably-narratin' rob ryan (fond of telling us how much he lies and doesn't notice), grew up in knocknaree and suffered a mysterious trauma in the nearby woods; when a young girl's body is found there some twenty years later, he catches the case and extremely awkward conversations with locals ensue.

it's hard to talk about in the woods at length without spoiling something - megan told me i needed to read this first novel of french's because it introduces a better novel's main character, and the act of reading this one without sniffing around its sequel (the likeness) nearly killed me - but i will say that french has something of kazuo ishiguro (never let me go)'s knack for articulating relationships' emotional temperatures, which is a pleasant surprise in a genre more concerned with suspense than regular old non-stabby interpersonal tension. in the woods's b-plot is the story of rob's relationship with his female partner; its overall arc is somewhat predictable, but it's described beautifully. the a-plot, in turn, certainly does its job: while i've been suspended like a fly in the sap that is the remainder of our october issue here at the magazine and haven't had time to read at home, i was perhaps the only ticketholder who didn't mind waiting out the rain for sunday night's capeman performance in central park. i tucked myself under an eave at the delacorte, imagined myself in ireland, and was perfectly content.

VICTOR: i'd rather have in the woods in my purse, but tree of smoke's still king of the shelf.

imaginary reading group discussion questions

01 wire-watchers, which was your favorite season?

02 what's your personal late-night-at-the-office record? i'm now at a quarter past midnight, but i'm stepping up for another go tonight, i think.

03 how was your weekend? i've missed you guys, what with the office eating my life.

*previous battle here.

**if you've spent time in oxford and aren't yet watching inspector lewis, incidentally, get on that.

***the best season, for my money.

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