When Emily’s father stumbles out of the woods near their house holding a dead teenage girl, the lives of her family change drastically. Her father is a war-damaged former soldier, suffering from severe trauma. Did a flashback cause him to kill her school mate, Ashlee? The police think so when they arrest him for murder.
Emily and Damon, Ashlee’s boyfriend, narrate subsequent events in alternating chapters and trace what happened prior to Ashlee’s death. Damon, the son of a soldier killed in combat, and his friends have been involved in playing a hunting game in the woods, with the aim of making them fit for careers in the armed forces, but when glamorous, manipulative Ashlee insists on joining the game things change. When her father is arrested for Ashlee’s killing, Emily sets out to reconstruct what can have happened that night. Gradually her investigations bring her into contact with Damon who was also in the woods; there is a growing attraction between the two, but can Emily trust Damon? There are also questions surrounding her close friend Joe, also in the woods that night; Damon, who was high on drink and drugs, cannot remember if he was involved in any way with Ashlee’s death. Christopher maintains the suspense while edging Damon and Emily towards a solution to the mystery, introducing new turns as they slowly unwind what actually happened on the fateful night. This intertwines with their developing interest in each other – not something that pleases either of them in the circumstances with which they are implicated.
The Killing Woods is an exciting thriller, but there is also plenty to engage thoughtful readers, especially when it introduces a sad perspective on soldiers damaged or killed in conflict and the effect this has on their families and community.