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What Lies in the Woods by Kate Alice Marshall

What Lies in the Woods

by Kate Alice Marshall

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Quick take

Haunted by a killer lie from their youth, a group of friends begins to unravel when one member starts asking questions.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_FemaleFriendship

    Female friendships

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Creepy


  • Illustrated icon, Icons_Rural_update


  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Whodunit



They were eleven when they sent a killer to prison . . . They were heroes . . . but they were liars.

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.

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Content warning

This book contains mentions of sexual assault.

Free sample

Get an early look from the first pages of What Lies in the Woods.
What Lies in the Woods

There is a wilderness in little girls.

We could not contain it. It made magic of the rain and a temple of the forest. We raced down narrow trails, hair flying wind-wild behind us, and pretended that the slender spruce and hemlock were still the ancient woods that industry had chewed down to splinters. We made ourselves into warriors, into queens, into goddesses. Fern leaves and dandelions became poultices and potions, and we sang incantations to the trees. We gave ourselves new names: Artemis, Athena, Hecate. Conversations were in code, our letters filled with elaborate ciphers, and we taught ourselves the meanings of stones.

Beneath a canopy of moss-wreathed branches, we joined hands and pledged ourselves to one another forever—a kind of forever that burns only in the hearts of those young enough not to know better.

Forever ended with the summer. It ended with a scream and the shocking heat of blood, and two girls stumbling onto the road.

The way Leo Cortland told the story, he thought at first that the sound was some kind of bird or animal. His spaniel’s ears perked, and she barked once, staring intently into the trees.

The truth was he knew right away that the sound belonged to a child. The story he told was a way to explain to himself why he stood for so long, unmoving. Why, when the spaniel lunged toward the noise, he hauled her back, wrapping the leash around his fist. Why he was starting to turn, to walk the other way, when the girls stumbled out of the woods, the two of them wild-eyed and whimpering and their clothes soaked with dark blood.

“What happened to you?” he asked, still in shock, still seized with the urge to get away.

One girl shivered and shook her head, wrapping her arms around her body, but the other spoke. Her voice was hollow and lost. “There was a man,” she told him. “He had a knife.”

“Are you hurt?” he asked, wishing that he had his gun, wishing that his spaniel had ever been a threat to anything but his shoes.

“No,” the girl said. When he told the story, Leo would linger on this part. The way she stared right through him, like there was nothing but a ghost behind her eyes. “But our friend is dead.”

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Why I love it

I was lucky enough to read an early copy of What Lies in the Woods which had me hooked me from the first page. I am still struck by the opening line: “There is a wilderness in little girls.” I love books about strange little girls and who they grow up to be, and I devoured this one in a single sitting.

It’s a novel about three girls who survived an attack and whose testimony put a serial killer in jail. Years later, one of the girls has something to confess, but some secrets are worth killing to keep. This book follows what happens when our past catches up with our present, revealing the secrets buried in our friendships. It contains a hint of magic as well as mystery, and this story is a reminder that our memories can make liars of us all.

I read a lot of thrillers, and this one really stands out from the crowd. It’s beautifully written and impossible to put down, clever and deliciously dark. Kate Alice Marshall is an exciting new voice in the adult thriller genre, and I know BOTM readers will love What Lies in the Woods as much as I did.

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Member ratings (41,621)

  • Cameo N.

    Mora, LA

    ???????????????? ???????????????? ???????????? ???????????????????????????? ???? ????????????????????????'???? ???????????? ???????? ????????????????. ???????????????? ???? ???????????????? ???????????????????????? ????????????????????????????????????????. ???????????????????????????????? ???????????? ???????????????????? ????????!

  • Ally B.

    Cranbrook, BC

    I wasn’t sure how I felt about the book at the beginning, but I’m so glad I stuck it out and finished it. One of my favourites I’ve read this year. So many twists. The ending surprised me! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️!

  • Ashlie O.

    Colorado Springs, CO

    Wow! I loved the Greek mythology mixed with the chilling “…wilderness in little girls” theme. Every dark and twisty corner kept me wanting more, and the ending was fast paced and shocking! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • Kaitlyn R.

    Casselberry, FL

    Strap in folks this one’s a wild ride. It’s surprising, it’s twisting, it’s tense, it’s dark, it a bit surprising. I did not actually see the ending coming so that was a nice change. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • Sydney H.

    Hoover, AL

    This book was so wonderfully creepy! I had so many theories throughout with all of the twists and turns! Some were right, others close, and some completely off base. I couldn’t put it down! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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