The God of the Woods

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Pub Date 4 Jul 2024 | Archive Date 25 Jul 2024


'I was totally gripped by this sharp, layered novel' Douglas Stuart, author of Shuggie Bain

'A brilliant, riveting fox-trap – an epic mystery' Miranda Cowley Heller, author of The Paper Palace

'A rare gem, an immersive and enthralling literary thriller' Paula Hawkins, author of The Girl on the Train


From the author of LONG BRIGHT RIVER, a Barack Obama Pick and a New York Times bestseller, comes a once-in-a-generation story; a novel you'll never forget.

Some said it was tragic, what happened to the Van Laars.

Some said the Van Laars deserved it. That they never even thanked the searchers who stayed out for five nights in the freezing forest trying to help find their missing son.

Some said there was a reason it took the family so long to call for help. That they knew what happened to the boy.

Now, fifteen years later, the daughter the family had in their grief has gone missing in the same wilderness as her brother. Some say the two disappearances aren’t connected.

Some say they are.

'I was totally gripped by this sharp, layered novel' Douglas Stuart, author of Shuggie Bain

'A brilliant, riveting fox-trap – an epic mystery' Miranda Cowley Heller, author of The Paper...

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ISBN 9780008663810
PRICE £9.99 (GBP)

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Average rating from 60 members

Featured Reviews

What a page turner this book was! I was hooked from the get-go.

Taking place in the heart of Camp Emerson, the story revolves around the disappearance of Babara Van Laar - daughter of the wealthy Peter and Alice Van Laar. 15 years prior, "Bear" Van Laar also went missing under mysterious circumstances. Through the many twists and turns of the book we unearth clues as to where Barbara is and what had happened to "Bear".

I was incredibly impressed at the characterisation of the main perspectives in the book. I felt like each person had their own voice and character - thus making the switches in narration easy to follow.

Ideal for lovers of mystery and crime; I have no doubt that this will be a bestseller and can't wait to buy it for my shelf!

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Loved the portrayal of the outdoor life in the Adirondack Mountains in a camp for children attached to the Van Laars large isolated mansion which they use in the summer. Being a keen hillwalker in the UK and used to enjoying walking in remote areas I felt that I really got an understanding of life there and enjoyed learning about nature in this area.
Basically this a story of a missing girl Barbara van Laar in 1975 and the search for her which starts to overlap with the disappearance of her brother over a decade before.
I liked the focus on the Judy the young Investigator who has recently transferred from being a state trooper and is trying to be accepted in a very male dominated work force and be taken seriously by the wealthy people that she is investigating.
A lot of the characters have a deprived background of poverty and emotional neglect which really contrasts with the extreme wealth and privilege of the Van Laars of which they are very protective.
The plot is told from different timelines and different perspectives and is very well constructed.
The very end of the book is a good way to finish the tale and left me wishfully thinking of life in simpler times.
This is the first Liz Moore book that I have read and definitely want to read more.

Thanks to NetGalley and HarperCollins for the ARC

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In the 1960's, the young son of a rich family goes missing int he grounds of their summer home. After days of searching, nothing is found, but everyone has an idea of what happened to him. But in the mid 1970's his younger Sister vanishes from a summer camp that is set on the same grounds where her Brother had vanished before she was born. Is it fate, a conspiracy or something more sinister? This twisty brilliant book is set over various era's, looking at what happened to Bear and Barbara van Laars, and all those who are connected to their lives in some way or another.

A must read for those who love a good mystery!

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This is another outstanding read from Liz Moore although completely different from Long Bright River. It switches through multiple POVs and timelines but is easy to follow. It is an excellent study of complex female characters, mainly Tracy, Louise, Alice and Judy (Judyta) but also Barbara and T.J. It is long but I did not want it to end. Highly recommended.

Thank you to NetGalley and HarperCollins UK for an advanced copy in exchange for my review.

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Once in a while a book comes along that you just sink into and cannot stop turning the pages. This is such a book. It revolves around a missing teenager Barbara, with similarities to her older brother who went missing 16 years before
There are a lot of characters at play here, the family that own the land, where the children have gone missing, the summer camp for teens that is in the shadow of the estate, and the town folk themselves. It’s about a family of privilege and wealth who are obviously hiding something. It’s about teen angst, first loves and its friendships and rivalries and it’s about a small town who serve both the family and the camp and all the things not said.
Barbara Van Laar isnt just any missing teen, she is the daughter of the family that own the estate and when she vanishes from her cabin at the camp it triggers a frantic search for her and awakens interest in the disappearance of her brother who has never been found.
Judyta Luptack is one of the investigators looking for clues to Barbara’s disappearance, bit by bit she starts putting the clues together, it seems obvious that the search some 16 years previous for Bear Van Laar was half hearted and in the end blame was put on the then recently deceased Carl who worked at the estate and had taken neglected Bear under his wing. Carls wife is still seeking to clear his name.
Barbara was largely ignored by her family, seen as a replacement for Bear, but then a disappointment as she was a girl. She is resilient and has learnt to care for herself, so is she still alive out there in the bush somewhere?
Told from different points of view, no real clues are given until the end of the book and the two outcomes that I didnt see coming. A Fantastic read!

#TheGodOfTheWoods. #NetGalley

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What a pleasant surprise this suspense novel is being for me. FIRST of all I love when a author can write female complex and complete characters and well Liz Moore did it so good and so well in this book. I like the two timelines and how the whole narrative is weaved in such a delightful way that keep you reading. Other thing that I find so interesting about the author is that it confuse me a bit about this book being suspense, thriller or a coming of age book. But is not possible to just set it in one type because this book have a bit of everything. Is such a well written book set in a very good build ambiance. This book requires you to focus on it and your whole attention. So may be a bit difficult to read for some readers but for me is the first epic book of the year

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I loved ‘Long, Bright River’ so was delighted to get my hands on an early copy of Liz Moore’s latest offering. ‘The God of the Woods’ opens with a hand-drawn map. Be still, my beating heart!

The story unfolds slowly, but that's OK because each era is so interesting to explore. Then, just when something big is about to happen, Moore pulls us out and plonks us down somewhere else in the timeline. It's frustrating but creates the most delicious tension. Chapters are short but the compulsion to keep reading is strong throughout. I found it interesting to see how some of the characters evolved through the years. I think there is a lot more mileage in Judyta, should the author choose to explore her life, and career, further in future. Overall, a thoroughly enjoyable and compelling read.

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When I like a book, I read in possible two ways- either I slowly savour each page, sipping each word and stringing it out as long as possible to enjoy every last paragraph OR I cram it into my reading hole like a giant chocolate bookcake, unable to stop and devouring the entire thing in one greedy sitting. 

The God of the Woods by Liz Moore falls firmly into the latter category. I could not believe how fast I consumed all 500 pages in one feverish, riveted gulp.

I am a sucker for any sort of novel involving an American summer camp and when you throw in a multi-layered mystery with a side helping of really good police procedural, I suspected I was on to a winner. I was not wrong. 

The story itself blew me away with Moore's deft handling of a very tricky plotline and a wide cast of characters. The story opens in August 1975. Barbara Van Laar is the teen daughter of the wealthy family that owns Camp Emerson and the adjoining estate in the Adirondack region. One morning, her camp counsellor Louise finds Barbara's bunk empty.  And what's even worse is she is not the first Van Laar child to go missing- 16 years earlier, Barbara's brother Bear vanished while on a hike- without a trace, never to be seen again. Barbara's sudden and mysterious disappearance sets off a chain of events that threatens to reveal a troublesome web of secrets and lies between the wealthy Van Laar family and the local community.

The novel switches between the perspectives of four main characters: Alice, the mother of the missing children; Louise, Barbara's camp counsellor; Tracy, a fellow camper and Barbara's friend, and Judtya, a rookie police Investigator. The novel also jumps between numerous timelines- 1950 to 1961 to 1975. Normally I would completely hate this sort of thing- I find multiple timelines and protagonists can lead to a very choppy and disjointed story. Not so in this case- Liz Moore is an absolute master at stitching together all the various strands while at the same time keeping the plot moving along. I particularly liked Judtya's storyline as she navigates various challenges in the form of overt sexism, entrenched class based prejudice and her own family's attitudes as she doggedly goes to work on solving the case. The other three protagonists are a mixed bag, and unlikeable to various degrees, but again Moore handles this with sensitivity and nuance.

In my opinion, very few crime novels completely stick the landing and whilst this was close, I'm not sure I was 100% convinced by aspects of the ending. There were also a few twists along the way which I did see coming. None of this detracted from my ultimate enjoyment. And looking at the book cover afterward, I had an "A-HA" moment, where the picture I was looking at suddenly made more sense, which I thought was a nice little touch. I will definitely be going back for a re-read to see other things I probably missed in my first mad inhalation.

In short, I recommend this book with a full five stars and it will be high on my Must Read List this year.  Liz Moore is a very talented writer and I suspect this novel will deservedly be a HUGE hit in 2024.  Thank you to NetGalley and to HarperCollins UK for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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I enjoyed this story. Well written. There are a number of timelines and people involved so it can get confusing but because it is well written I was able to keep up despite having a bad memory. Only a few f bombs which is always a plus for me.
I can highly recommend this book.

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What an intriguing tale. I loved the way the story unravelled and the jump from past to present and chapters told by different characters was so well handled that I was never confused. I was fascinated by the Judy, the young rookie detective and how she 'coped' with the case, as well as the daughter who 'disappears', Barbara Van Laar even though her name didn't seem to suit her...?! So glad it didn't fizzle out in the end as so many other books do.

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When teenager Barbara Van Laar goes missing from the summer vacation camp owned by her parents, speculation is rife. Fourteen years earlier, her eight-year-old brother, Bear, had also gone missing, and was never found. Is there a connection? Secrets and suspicions among the locals resurface as rookie investigator Judyta tries to find out the truth. This is an engrossing and layered mystery set in the Adirondacks during the 1950s to the 1970s, when women were expected to conform to society’s expectations and had to struggle for any sort of position in the community not bestowed on them by marriage. Similarly, the working class have to bow to the whims of their rich employers at a time when factories and industry were often failing. The Van Laars and their wealthy guests have a luxury lifestyle but their lives are hollow, ruled by appearances and the need to make money. Parental expectations are oppressive, and staff are considered disposable, even if this means ruining lives. The narrative is told from the viewpoints of several of the characters, adding a richness and complexity, as the pieces of the puzzle fit together. Judyta, meanwhile, faces resistance from her parents and misogyny among her work colleagues as she sets out to prove herself as part of the investigating team, and it is her compassion and determination that leads to a breakthrough at last. Powerful and insightful, this is an impossible book to put down, never letting up on the tension but also shining a light on attitudes and prejudices that have probably not completely been left behind. Unforgettable and unmissable.

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Having loved Liz Moore's Long Bright River, I was especially keen to read her latest, a superb, superior, and cracking multilayered historical read that had me enthralled from beginning to end, her artful and complex plotting is second to none, and her creation and development of varied, flawed, nuanced, and authentic feeling characters is remarkable. Weaving intriguing mysteries across different time periods with care, humanity, and skill, this spans from 1951 to 1975, it opens at the exclusive Camp Emerson, located amidst the vibrancy and beauty of the Adirondacks, where a young teen girl is discovered by a counsellor as missing from Camp Emerson, but this is no ordinary girl, she is Barbara Van Laar.

Barbara is the daughter of the rich Peter and Alice, owners of the camp, and the nearny ostentatious large estate and more, many years earlier before Barbara was born, her brother, Bear, disappeared too, never to be seen again, Alice is understandably shattered, her world is broken, she turns to alcohol, there is no comfort to be found in the distant Peter. It is no surprise there is widespread chaos and panic following this tragic dark occurence, what on earth is going on, how can this possibly happen again? There are rumours that abound as we are immersed in what lies beneath the surface, and the perspectives of a number of different characters, in the shifting eras, including members of the local community, the family, and Judya, who investigates amidst the social norms and attitudes of the time that leave a lot to be desired.

This is a utterly gripping read that I did not want to end, touching on a wide range of themes and issues, incorporating class inequalities, family, marriage, being a mother, love, childhood, identity, community, misogyny, belonging, abuse, connections, disconnections and more. An astutely observed mystery with its life changing impacts, this is a compulsive read and drama that I recommend highly to readers who appreciate and want to be immersed in an unmissable, brilliant, seemingly mystifying, suspenseful novel. Looking forward with great anticipation to Moore's next book!! Many thanks to the publisher for an ARC.

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The God of the Woods is the mystery surrounding Barbara Van Laar, a girl who goes missing from a summer camp. Her disappearance is eerily similar to that of her brother Bear, some years earlier.
It’s a bit of a slow stater but it soon picks up. It’s told from different points of view and timelines but you don’t get lost within them all. It’s a gripping read that kept me interested from start to finish. One to look out for this year!

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