Book Review / Kate Alice Marshall / Reviews with Spoilers

Kate Alice Marshall | What Lies In The Woods

The Book: 

What Lies in the Woods by Kate Alice Marshall
Published January 17, 2023 by Flatiron Books
Date read: December 31, 2022

The Characters: 

Naomi Shaw

Buy it on Bookshop.org | Amazon


The Plot (from Goodreads):

Naomi Shaw used to believe in magic. Twenty-two years ago, she and her two best friends, Cassidy and Olivia, spent the summer roaming the woods, imagining a world of ceremony and wonder. They called it the Goddess Game. The summer ended suddenly when Naomi was attacked. Miraculously, she survived her seventeen stab wounds and lived to identify the man who had hurt her. The girls’ testimony put away a serial killer, wanted for murdering six women. They were heroes.

And they were liars.

For decades, the friends have kept a secret worth killing for. But now Olivia wants to tell, and Naomi sets out to find out what really happened in the woods—no matter how dangerous the truth turns out to be.

Click here for book spoilers for What Lies In The Woods
Book spoilers ahead–if you haven’t yet read What Lies In The Woods, I suggest you turn back now.

The Reveal:

Ethan was really AJ Stall, the son of the serial killer that Naomi had put in jail. She was coached into saying she had seen Stall, but she hadn’t seen who stabbed her, and didn’t remember anything about the attack. If she was honest with herself, she knew there were inconsistencies that made her believe she had put the wrong person in jail.

Once Liv was found dead, Naomi knew she needed to figure out what really happened. Had Liv gotten too close to identifying the real person and they killed her for it? She didn’t believe that Liv’s death was a suicide.

Persephone was a girl named Jessi Walker, who was thought to have left town. She was friends with people adjacent to Naomi’s crowd. Naomi began to suspect Oscar, the man who had statutorily raped her when she was 15 and who she continued to have sex of dubious consent with. Oscar had been in love with Jessi and clearly harbored resentment that Jessi hadn’t been interested in him.

Jessi wasn’t interested in Oscar because she was sleeping with a married man, who turned out to be the mayor. Naomi moved on to suspecting him next.

Jessi’s actual killer was Cody, the brother figure that had carried Naomi out of the woods after she was stabbed. Cody had also been in love with Jessi. I can’t remember the exact details, but Cody and Jessi had been arguing and she hit her head. He was driving her home and she needed to get out of the car to throw up (because she was concussed), and he left her in the woods with a brain injury. He figured she would find her way home, but she died out there. It’s unclear how her skeleton got into the cave, I don’t think they mentioned Cody moving it.

Liv had stabbed Naomi first, but Cass did the next 17 times. Cass made it a part of their “goddess game” ritual, and tried to use Liv’s mental illness to get her to kill Naomi. Cass was jealous that Liv and Naomi had gotten closer, because they were supposed to be her best friends. When Liv was unable to do more than stab Naomi once in the back, Cass tried to finish the job. They both thought she was dead when they left her.

The Allen Stall story was concocted by Cass and Liv’s parents to kill two birds with one stone (catch a serial killer and protect their children). Naomi’s dad was paid off to not ask questions.

This all came to a head when Cody asked Naomi to show him Persephone, after she had confessed to him. Cass met them in the woods and was about to kill Naomi, but Cody said he should do it just in case they were caught (since he had already killed Jessi, then just one of them would go to jail for murder). He shot Cass instead.

Naomi ran away, but Cody shot her too. She was able to hide in the cave with Persephone and call Ethan. Cody was arrested.

Ethan knew his father hadn’t been the one who attacked Naomi, because Ethan had seen him in their hometown that night. He never came forward with the alibi because Stall had brought him along on his murders to lure women into the car. Ethan wanted him stopped and Naomi was the perfect excuse.

The Ending:

After Naomi got out of the hospital, Ethan visited her at her father’s house. He asked her to be a part of his podcast, and they tentatively decided to be friends.

The Review: 

This book was so sneakily good! I requested the audio from Macmillan on a whim, and listened to it while getting ready for my office’s holiday party this year. I ended up absolutely blowing through most of the audiobook in a matter of hours!

I’m a big fan of listening to podcast-based books as audiobooks, and What Lies In The Woods was no exception. While we didn’t hear a lot of Ethan’s actual podcast, the audiobook still gave this thriller the creepy vibes it deserved. Karissa Vacker killed it as usual.

Naomi was a great main character. She’s clearly damaged, but she’s also resilient and determined to figure out the truth. I found her very interesting to read, and her character was well-developed.

The reveal got me in this book! Everything was revealed at the perfect pace–I was never bored with the plot or overwhelmed by the twists. I didn’t know who to suspect but enjoyed how all of the twists were explained.

This is a quick read that had me on the edge of my seat. I enjoyed What Lies In The Woods so much that I picked up a copy from Book of the Month this month as well.

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