Little girls follow adventure. There’s a wilderness to them, as Kate Alice says in What Lies In The Woods. The local woods was the heart of Naomi, Cass, and Olivia’s childhood fantasies…and nightmares. Among the trees, they created a mystical game, “The Goddess Game,” which guided their lives, fate, and friendship. It was their secret, one they only shared with someone who could never speak the truth.
But one night, an attacker stomped through the woods and took Naomi down, nearly killing her with seventeen stab wounds.
She survived, and the girls identified the killer.
They were heroes.
And they were liars.
Years later, a breakup sends Naomi home, chasing her “ghost backward through memory.”
From there, What Lies In The Woods shivers with the electrical pulses of a mounting mystery and never lets up. This one is an absolute page-turner with its labyrinth of secrets and Gillian Flynn-stylized protagonist, Naomi. Readers sympathize with Naomi but are never allowed close enough to love her. Kate Alice Marshall wanted readers to feel stonewalled by Naomi as much as the secondary characters did. This method lends itself well to the use of the classic murder mystery setup: who’s plotting with who, and whom against?
No one is safe.
The town’s web of betrayal and lies was kept for decades and upheld throughout What Lies In The Woods. The association with privilege and social ranking in this thorned thriller reminded me of the Netflix docuseries Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal.
Despite the heart-hammering pace and complexity of this book, a degree of predictability dampened a few reveals. This felt like a style choice but left me wanting about thirty more pages upon finishing.
I highly recommend What Lies In The Woods to readers who enjoyed Riley Sager’s Final Girls, I Know What You Did Last Summer, and those following the development of the Murdaugh Murders.