The Lying Woods

Review From User :

I went into this book expecting a light, mysterious read, based on Elston's fierce following, but I had no clue it would be THAT good. Seriously, how have I not come across her books before now I need to immediately scour her backlist and catch up on all her other books that I've missed thus far. When I saw the description for this one pop up on NetGalley, it was one of those moments where I hit the button based on a pretty cover and a vague, angsty synopsis. *bats eyes* Weirdly enough, the tree on the cover didn't play into the story quite like I had expected, and this my friends was a very good thing.

Owen Foster is in the middle of a prank war with his best friend Jack when he's called into the principal's office of his highly esteemed boarding school and is informed that his father has committed a modern day Ponzi scheme and left his mother and he to face the tumultuous aftershock, while dad escapes relatively unscathed and millions of dollars wealthier. As expected, Owen has to return back to his hometown with his mother in the wake of losing all of their worldly possessions, and this return includes harassment of all kinds, such as death threats and flaming bricks through windows. Did I mention his father's business going under affects nearly every single person in the town Naturally, no one is welcoming to Owen and his mother, except a recluse named Gus who offers to hire Owen and pay him in exchange for services rendered in renovating his house and working in harvesting the pecan crop this year. As Owen works on the farm, he comes to learn that his father spent a summer working on this very farm, and we slowly get the back story into why Owen's father has done what he has done.

I left out a few key plots, such as the letter that Owen receives from his father the day before he leaves Sutton (the fancy pants boarding school), because I want you to experience that part for yourself, and while the tension of that meeting does build over the course of the novel, it's not the main focus. I was blown away by how complex and multi-faceted this book was; it had present day storytelling and flashback moments told at the end of each chapter, explaining what happened that fateful summer in 1999 when Owen's father worked at the farm. There is a bit of budding romance included (past and present), but again, it's not the main focus or done in a way to overshadow all the important elements here. I don't want to say too much, other than just read the book, but it was the type of read that checked all my boxes.

The Lying Woods was a mystery that kept me grappling between various outcomes, included emotional depth not typically found in YA contemporary mysteries, and featured a platonic male relationship that was everything I could have hoped for and more. This book was incredibly satisfying, compulsively readable, and included many lessons that are relevant for teens and adults alike. Highly recommended!

*Many thanks to the publisher for providing my copy via NetGalley.


Owen Foster has never wanted for anything. Then his mother shows up at his elite New Orleans boarding school cradling a bombshell: his privileged life has been funded by stolen money. After using the family business, the single largest employer in his small Louisiana town, to embezzle millions and drain the employees’ retirement accounts, Owen’s father vanished without a trace, leaving Owen and his mother to deal with the fallout.
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Owen returns to Lake Cane to finish his senior year, where people he can barely remember despise him for his father’s crimes. It’s bad enough dealing with muttered insults and glares, but when Owen and his mother receive increasingly frightening threats from someone out for revenge, he knows he must get to the bottom of what really happened at Louisiana Frac–and the cryptic note his father sent him at his boarding school days before disappearing.

Owen’s only refuge is the sprawling, isolated pecan orchard he works at after school, owned by a man named Gus who has his own secrets–and in some ways seems to know Owen better than he knows himself. As Owen uncovers a terrible injustice that looms over the same Preacher Woods he’s claimed as his own, he must face a shocking truth about his own past–and write a better future.

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