IN THE FOREST returns to the countryside of western Ireland, the vivid backdrop of Edna O'Brien's previous novel, WILD DECEMBERS. Murder is again the story's climax, but the killer's motives are deeply buried in his psychoses rather than triggered by exterior conflict. Michen O'Kane loses his mother as a boy and by the age of ten is incarcerated for petty crimes in juvenile detention centers, "the places named after the saints." But his problems go beyond early loss and abuse - the killing instinct is already kindled in him. He is christened by fearful neighbors "the Kinderschreck," meaning someone of whom small children are afraid. As in Greek tragedy, there are unwitting victims for sacrifice in the Kinderschreck's world - a radiant young woman, her little son, and a devout and trusting priest, all dispatched to the forest of O'Kane's unbridled, deranged fantasies. Taken from a true story, Edna O'Brien's riveting, frightening, and brilliantly told new novel reminds us that anything can happen "outside the boundary of mother and child," where protection isn't afforded. The villagers of IN THE FOREST see "one of their own sons, come out of their own soil, their own flesh and blood, gone amok." It is an intimate portrayal of both perpetrator and victims - a story that is old, and current, and everywhere.