Every year my spouse picks out a box of brand new hardbacks for me for Christmas. Some are hits, and some are misses. One past hit was In the Woods, Tana French's debut novel. It helps that her books mix murder mystery and police procedural with deep character studies. Each so far has been told from the viewpoint of a detective who figured in the prior book.
Like her other novels, the action occurs in Dublin. An undercover cop, Frank Mackey, gets drawn back into the impoverished neighborhood where he grew up in a family with an abusive alcoholic father. He has not set foot there since an aborted elopement 22 years earlier, but the discovery of the suitcase of his first love brings him home.
The plot takes place within Frank's thoughts and memories. His family had five children, and the eldest of the bunch learned to protect the younger ones, keeping them fed and clothed and away from their father's wrath. Domestic violence is a problem that should stay within the home per the police of the day, and his mother refuses to divorce because of her sacred marital vows. Frank also reminds us along the way that all contraception was illegal in Ireland at that time.
The children, especially the oldest ones, dreamed of escaping this neighborhood and this life.
Frank has left this all behind, but his reminiscences drove home how important giving women control over reproduction can be in fighting abject poverty. Without so many children, daily life becomes easier. Without so many children, leaving an abusive spouse becomes feasible.
I hit this point in the book about the time Todd Akin revealed his utter lack of biological knowledge and dismal view of women's rights. The effect of his statements and this prose proved chilling.
If you love great mysteries, start reading Tana French's books NOW. If you enjoy psychological studies and police procedurals, start reading these books NOW. The latest volume has already destroyed my productivity for the last 2 days; I invite the world to join me in a wonderful read!