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The Woods


The Woods

Tess Cooper’s Mum read fairy tales to her daughters. But the story that began “Once upon a time, two girls went into the woods and only one came out” frightened Tess so much that her Mum started skipping that one. How the tale ends, though, comes back to haunt Tess in a big way.

One night 10 years ago, Tess and her older sister, Bella, were discovered in the woods behind their house. Tess was badly injured, but Bella didn’t survive. As soon as Tess could, she fled to the city, her memory of that night a blank. And it might have remained that way if not for a distressing call from her father. He tells her that her stepmom, Julia, is dying and asks her to please come home. Despite not being able to remember the events of that night, she knows something bad happened, and home is not a safe place for her. The police ruled Bella’s death a tragic accident, but Tess never believed that. Still, she can’t refuse her father in his time of need, so she catches a ride back with Max Rees, her heartthrob from those troubled times, and his sister Lena.

"The suspense ripples through every chapter of THE WOODS, creating a relentlessly compulsive pacing. Don’t miss Vanessa Savage's superb thriller."

The Rees siblings spent a lot of time at the Cooper place because their own parents were often away for work. Tess fell hard for Max, but he had eyes for Bella. Julia’s sons, Sean and Jack, also return to visit their dying mother, although reluctantly; they’re unwelcome company if you were to ask Tess. In a twist of fate, Julia abandoned the boys’ father in order to marry Tess’ dad. Naturally, resentments linger. Now, however, the Cooper house is trying to put aside those old feelings to comfort Julia in her final days. Plus, Sean and Jack have plans to put Dean House up for sale. It seems like a perfect time for that. And, while she’s home, maybe Tess can repair the gaps in her memory. She has long wanted to do so. But has she really?

Thinking back, Tess recalls that Bella wasn’t the only teenager to die that summer. Another body was found, and another girl went missing. That left investigators wondering if they had a serial killer on their hands. Then time passed, and the cases grew cold. Now, not long after Tess and the others return, bones are discovered near Dean House. Another teenage victim? Well, when the cops tell them who the bones belong to, it throws them all into a tailspin. Sean and Jack become enraged. Tess falls back into her near fugue state. And what are Max and Lena up to? Frustratingly, Tess still can’t remember that night. Snippets come back to her in bits and pieces, but they only create more questions. And now the police seem to be seriously doubting her story. Frankly, who can blame them? Even she doubts herself.

When her sister died, Tess was at a tender age, just 15. Her emotions ran high, and her schoolgirl crush messed with her head. But she loved Bella and would give almost anything to have her back. Whatever happened in the woods that night Tess will live with forever --- if only she can remember. And, oh, how she wants to remember. Her dead sister walks beside her every day, urging her to figure it out. Wake up. It’s not finished. Tess simply has to know, or she will go mad.

The suspense ripples through every chapter of THE WOODS, creating a relentlessly compulsive pacing. Don’t miss Vanessa Savage's superb thriller.

Reviewed by Kate Ayers on August 28, 2020

The Woods
by Vanessa Savage