Title: The Killing Woods
Author: Lucy Christopher
Publisher: The Chicken House
Emily’s dad is accused of killing a teenage girl -Ashlee – in the woods. Emily and Damon – Ashlee’s boyfriend – struggle to piece together the events that led up to her murder and make sense of what has happened.
I do not own the content taken from this novel. All rights belong to Lucy Christopher and The Chicken House.
Excerpt from Page 5:
“Dad didn’t answer. His face was red and damp; he wheezed as he pushed past me. The girl’s fingers trailed over my arm, and they were cold – dead cold – like a stone found in a cave. Dad laid her carefully on the kitchen table as if he were putting her to bed. He turned her head to the side and stretched out one of her arms so she was in the recovery position. He touched her neck gently, just like he’d touched the neck of the roe deer so long ago. But this deer didn’t move, didn’t struggle or try to stop him. Her name was Ashlee Parker.”
The story is told as a dual narrative by Emily and Damon. Both voices are distinct and strong. I can easily discern which character is narrating without needing it to be identified at the beginning of each chapter. What I particularly love about the narrative style, is that we get to see the events through two different viewpoints which is especially interesting when it comes to their attraction towards one another. Both characters tend to fixate on the murder too much though and while this is exactly what we want as readers, it feels like we need to see a different side to them – a different facet of their character – to validate and compliment this obsessive quest for the truth.
The characters are fully mapped out. I love the glimpse into Emily’s father’s fragile state of mind. She illustrates this perfectly both in his body language and the way that he speaks. It feels genuine. Emily’s mother is another intriguing character in how she turns on her husband, believing that he is guilty while her daughter is so set against the idea of her Dad as a murderer. Joe is perfect as the best friend who guards his own secrets though it would be better if we got to spend more time with Joe at the beginning of the novel as he plays such a pivotal role towards the climax.
I don’t think it was the sort of plot that was going to necessarily keep me guessing until the end. It wasn’t exactly a Sherlock Holmes mystery. If you read the text closely enough, I’m pretty sure you can make an educated guess as to what has really happened. I was expecting something a bit grander and more shocking then what we receive. The ending strikes me as slightly anti-climatic. Having said that, the plot is simple and the dramatic tension is present and heightened in all the right places. Christopher is a master of dramatic tension and her writing really ratchets that up a level each time so that it constantly leaves you wanting to know more. Her in-the-moment scenes are gripping but at times, it can feel like we’re in-the-moment (action) too much that I became a bit de-sensitized to the tension. When I first picked up the book, I was expecting a story with a supernatural element. Darkwood seems like a mystical, dangerous place that could almost double as a gateway into another world or another world itself. Maggie Stiefvater (best known for her werewolf content in her supernatural YA Fiction works) further reinforces this. The cover suggests that there could be something sinister about these woods, further lending fuel to this theory. It was only when I was halfway though the story that I realised that there were no werewolves. (I was seriously expecting werewolves!!! Maybe it’s just me!)
The story focuses on the dramatic tension and fast-paced narrative that it lacks somewhat in the descriptive department. While we get a fantastic description of Darkwood, we don’t quite get the same attention to detail when it comes to her school. The initial dialogue that we witness between Emily and Kirsty (and Emily’s old circle of friends) is explosive and it reels us in immediately, though at the expense of painting a picture of where it is that they’re fighting. For some, this may not be an issue but for me, I like to know more about where the scene is set rather than deduce the setting to “school”. I need to be able to visualise the scene; everything from the characters to the setting. We get a range of brushes (character) with which to paint but we are limited in the colours (setting/places) that are delivered.
My reading knowledge in this area isn’t extensive but based on what I’ve read, I love the mystery element and the in-the-moment action that accompanies the plot. The dual narrative makes it more interesting as the events play out and the way in which each character reacts to revelations. It’s more the technique and the ease with which (Lucy) Christopher crafts sentences and dialogues and those intense scenes of conflict and dramatic tension rather than the subject matter itself. The idea is simple and effective but when I gauge it next to some of the other books I’ve read (particularly from the mystery angle), it falls a little short of the mark.
Summary: Fast-paced, in-the-moment action complimented with edge-of-your-seat writing. Lucy Christopher is a master with words and crafts an easy, yet enjoyable read.
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