Serial killers are never forgotten. Their names are written in the headlines. They are given catchy nicknames –the Night Stalker, the Boston Strangler, the list goes on. They become names that will never quite fade. But what about their victims? Ted Bundy alone killed over thirty women. How many of us can name even one of his victims?
What Lies in the Woods is a thriller that is told from the perspective of the victim. In this case, a victim who lived to tell the story. Naomi was found stabbed 17 times and left for dead. She was only a child, playing in the woods with her two best friends when the attack occurred. The police already knew who was responsible for the crime. There was a string of murders in the area but without proper evidence they were never able to make an arrest. But now they have an eyewitness. Naomi identifies Stahl as the man who attacked her, and he is finally put behind bars.
And so, life goes on. Except for one detail – Naomi never actually saw the person who attacked her. The police were so sure it was Stahl. They were so eager to finally arrest him that Naomi felt she couldn’t let them down. She may have sent the wrong person to prison. She’s lived her whole life as ‘Stahl’s victim’ but that’s not the truth. And if it wasn’t Stahl who did it – that means that the real attacker is still out there. The guilt starts to catch up with Naomi. Who really stabbed her? What motivation did they have to try to kill a child? The quest for answers unravels a deeper mystery tangled with dark secrets.
What Lies in the Woods is author Kate Alice Marshall’s debut adult novel. She usually writes teen novels that are horror mixed with the paranormal. However, there are no supernatural elements in this story. Indeed, it is a very human story. Naomi carries a huge weight, not just from her lies, but from her trauma. PTSD isn’t something that can be cured. It is part of her. It seeps into every part of her life. It shapes her relationships. It forms her decisions. It is this sense of humanity that makes the story even more intense. As the mystery of her attacker grows deeper, you really want her to find answers so she can finally heal.
Kate Alice Marshall does a superb job of putting a very human face on a gripping crime story. Every time you think you have the story figured out, the rug is pulled out from under you and you’re forced to rethink the whole scenario over again. You feel for Naomi’s position and the urgency for her to solve the crime. It is a great choice for readers who love suspense and deep character exploration.