The Girl in the Woods – Gregg Olsen [Review]

The Girl in the Woods cover

The Girl in the Woods is the first book in the Waterman and Stark series by Gregg Olsen.

This mystery/thriller was published on October 28, 2014 by Pinnacle.



New York Times bestselling author Gregg Olsen pits native American pathologist Birdy Waterman against a female killer whose dark desires know no limit in this darkly atmospheric, psychologically driven thriller, which puts Olsen in the class with thriller masters Harlan Coben, Jeffery Deaver, and Tess Gerritsen.

A schoolgirl found it on a nature hike. A severed human foot wearing pink nail polish. A gruesome but invaluable clue that leads forensic pathologist Birdy Waterman down a much darker trail—to a dangerous psychopath whose powers of persuasion seem to have no end. Only by teaming up with sheriff’s detective Kendall Stark can Birdy hope to even the odds in a deadly game. It’s a fateful decision the killer wants them to make. And it’s the only way Birdy and Kendall can find their way to a murderer who’s ready to kill again…


I own a paperback copy of The Girl in the Woods. I chose to read it because the second book in the series, Now That She’s Gone, is on my backlog of review copies I need to do. 

I enjoyed reading The Girl in the Woods because of great pacing, interesting characters, and enough suspense to keep me turning the pages. I think the book could have been edited better to eliminate problems like head-hopping, repetitive dialogue, and inconsistent details.

Olsen wrote The Girl in the Woods in third person, past tense. I think that’s pretty standard for mysteries and thrillers, and it worked well for this book except for the issue of head-hopping. I would have preferred third person limited point-of-view. Jumping from one character to another aggravates me.

This is a book that covers more than one case. I thought the author did a good job of keeping multiple story lines going. Surprisingly, though, the case that the book is titled after isn’t the first case that the reader learns about. The first mystery introduced by the author is about a woman named Molly. She is concerned about her sick neighbor, Ted. Molly’s point of view is the first we see, but Molly isn’t a main character. I thought starting the book with Molly’s mystery was a strange choice by the author, considering it has nothing to do with the girl in the woods.

The negatives

I’ll be honest. The Girl in the Woods had issues. In addition to head-hopping, I made note of problems like repeated conversations, contrived situations that didn’t make sense, and inconsistent details. It really upset me when characters repeated a conversation and had totally different reactions than before.

I also didn’t like how it seemed I was expected to take things at face value without any explanation. Here’s an example: Birdy somehow managed to enroll her nephew in school without any documents or his mother’s permission. How was that even possible? Wouldn’t she at least need his birth certificate?

As I mentioned, there was a problem with inconsistent details. The confession at the end really threw me through a loop, especially when the characters didn’t act on the information that they were given. They acted like the person hadn’t even told them certain things.

The Girl in the Woods is not a thriller like the blurb claims. It is more of a mystery or police procedural. There are some scenes toward the end that include danger, but for the most part, it’s a matter of figuring out whodunit.

The positives

Although the book had problems that could have been resolved with better editing, I did enjoy the overall story.

The pacing was excellent, and the characters were well-rounded. Birdie and Kendall, although different from one another, worked well together.I also liked Birdie’s nephew, which added a domestic subplot that made Birdie more human.

Furthermore, the ending had some good surprises that I didn’t see coming.


Yes. If you like books with female detectives or forensic pathologists, you should give The Girl in the Woods a try. It isn’t the best written book, but it  is a definite page-turner because of the characters and situations.

4/5 STARS (B)


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About Jen Schaper

In addition to being a book blogger, I am a mother of three children, a retail backroom coordinator, and a wannabe writer (when I make time to do it).
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