The Woman in the Wood by Lesley Pearse

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The Woman in the Wood by Lesley Pearse

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Category: Crime
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Tanja Jennings
Reviewed by Tanja Jennings
Summary: Pearse's latest novel is a mystery thriller with a dark underbelly set in the 1960s. While it possesses qualities the author is known for, like a strong sense of place, rich characterisation and nail biting drama, it unfortunately has a predictable plot which makes it less compelling to read. Vanishing boys are at its core but it lacks the red herrings that a good crime novel needs to throw the reader off the scent of the true perpetrator.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 400 Date: June 2017
Publisher: Penguin
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781405921053

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Lesley Pearse compares her writing process to the art of gardening: 'A seed of a plot drops into my head, I plant it with a few chapters, spend a great deal of time thinking it through, and once the green shoots come through, I water it with care. Hopefully several months later something beautiful has grown.' Certainly, she carefully cultivates her characters, meticulously researches the locations for her books and is an expert at creating a fast paced plot with heart in the mouth moments. She delivers staggering surprises as her brave protagonists battle terrifying odds and draw on inner hidden strengths to triumph over adversity. Invariably her well-crafted novels, whether they be historical fiction, family sagas or crime stories are captivating best sellers. Consequently as an avid Lesley Pearse fan I had high expectations for her latest novel. Whilst it delivered on some levels, it regrettably didn't leave me in disbelief at the denouement.

The story begins with 15 year old Maisy and Duncan's mother removed forcibly from her home. Their father is adamant that she should receive psychiatric help and the twins cannot understand why. Suddenly their world is turned upside down when they are sent away from London to live in the New Forest with their cold and forbidding grandmother. Their only shining light is the warm, motherly housekeeper Janice.

As the twins start to settle in they become intrigued with the curious and eccentric locals. There is a witch, a wheelchair bound school master, a female recluse who does not welcome trespassers; and a sharp suited family solicitor. Inseparable since birth, Maisy and Duncan soon start to discover other hobbies that keep them apart as they meet friends and potential love interests.

Life seems rosy for Maisy as romance beckons but storm clouds are on the horizon. Duncan is suddenly snatched with only his sandal left as a clue. He was last seen cycling into the wood in search of Grace Deverill. Could she have the answers? Maisy is anxious to uncover the truth which becomes even more urgent after the bodies of other missing boys are found.

At this point the pace drops as Maisy has an interlude before she doggedly returns to confront the ghastly reality of what has happened to her brother. It's been fifteen months since he went missing. Is he still alive? Can she find an ally to help her in her fight for justice? The problem with The Woman in the Wood is that it is a coming of age tale crossed with a murder mystery which diminishes the level of tension needed to sustain a reader's interest throughout. Where it succeeds is in its lessons in morality and attack on hypocrisy. It has disturbing scenes which throw a spotlight on the ugliness and cruelty of those who prey on children but they are contrasted with the healing powers that nature and honest friendship can bring.

Why are boys disappearing only to later turn up dead? Is a psychopathic, depraved child predator responsible? Are they Mr X whom the police cannot trace? What is the mystery surrounding the twins' mother? Why is their father hiding secrets? Who is Mr Dove? What role does Mr Grainger play? Who are Alan and Linda? Whom can Maisy trust? For all these answers and more immerse yourself in Lesley's 25th novel.

If you would like to experience well-crafted and intriguing mystery thrillers with deadly criminals, daring detectives and brave protagonists why not try Without a Trace by Lesley Pearse, Dead To You by Lisa McMann, Lynley and Havers in With No One As Witness by Elizabeth George, Why Don't You Come For Me? by Diane Janes, Forgive Me by Lesley Pearse and No Time For Goodbye by Linwood Barclay.

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Buy The Woman in the Wood by Lesley Pearse at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Woman in the Wood by Lesley Pearse at


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