Before I get into a review of this twisty, turny, absolutely fascinating novel, I have to grump. What are the odds that the new audiobook, ebook, and hard copy books that I am reading would all be really annoying (in different ways, mind you)? Three books when this has been a year (so far) of mostly 4 and 5 star reads? What a bump in the book blogging world! Grump over. Let’s look at What Lies in the Woods by new-to-me author, Kate Alice Marshall.
Blurb: Naomi Shaw used to believe in magic. Twenty-two years ago, she and her two best friends, Cassidy and Olivia, spent the summer roaming the woods, imagining a world of ceremony and wonder. They called it the Goddess Game. The summer ended suddenly when Naomi was attacked. Miraculously, she survived her seventeen stab wounds and lived to identify the man who had hurt her. The girls’ testimony put away a serial killer, wanted for murdering six women. They were heroes.
And they were liars.
For decades, the friends have kept a secret worth killing for. But now Olivia wants to tell, and Naomi sets out to find out what really happened in the woods—no matter how dangerous the truth turns out to be.
Allan Michael Stahl is dead. Finally. Finally Naomi Shaw can relax because the man who tried to kill her all those years ago by stabbing her 17 times and leaving her for dead and who promised to get her is dead. But what would seem to be an ending is just the beginning. The beginning of uncovering secrets, lies, and loyalties in this deliciously twisty novel by Kate Alice Marshall.
Naomi, Olivia, and Cassidy are tween girls, best friends who have always played in the woods. Their latest game is the Goddess Game. It’s full of ceremony, sacrifices, and offerings. It offers a much-needed alternate universe for Naomi, whose home life is less than stellar. For Olivia and Cassidy, who both want for nothing (seemingly), it offers a different kind of release. The Goddess Game is what the three are playing when Naomi is viciously attacked. By Stahl?
After notification of his death, the three gather together in the small town of Chester, mostly because Olivia has kept secrets that she feels need to be brought out. While she mentions one of the secrets, it is only at the climax of the novel that the reader discovers the magnitude of the secrets Oliva was keeping, of the lies that had been told.
How do you know an audiobook is good? When you try to find all kinds of mindless chores to do so that you can keep listening and that is what I did with What Lies in the Woods. Karissa Vacker’s narration was excellent and she so well brought to life the atmosphere and characters written by Marshall, raising alarm and calm as needed, and interjecting just the right amount of wry self-deprecation to Naomi’s voice.
The novel is dark. It shows small-town life where outsiders are barely welcome and are mostly suspect. Where they protect their own against outsiders while equally treating their own like pariahs. Where money defines relationships.
Despite, or perhaps because of, her past, Naomi possesses a sharp wit that keeps her from being cruel. Marshall has created a character who has been defined by her past but has also managed to survive beyond it. There are pitfalls. She has her own dark traits–all understandable. She pushes people away while also equally needing someone to be there.
Admittedly, I was not a Naomi fan at the beginning, especially in her very messy relationship with her user-boyfriend, Mitch. They were like two very damaged, dysfunctional individuals trying to create a relationship out of thin air. A situation of mutual using. Fortunately the novel moved away from that relationship and into the meat of the story so that the reader could begin to know and understand Naomi and likewise find a relationship with the novel.
This was a hard to put down–or in my case turn off–novel, especially when I needed to turn it off or be late for an appointment. A good read!
I received a copy of the audiobook in exchange for an honest review.