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What Lies in the Woods by Kate Alice Marshall: FAQs + Books Like It

Updated: Aug 14, 2023

Murders in the woods of the Northwest Pacific. Little girls obsessed with goddesses, bones, and rituals. When I read the description of What Lies in the Woods by Kate Alice Marshall, I knew I was in for an interesting read. (Kindle | Kobo | Hardcover)

This book had so many twists and turns, it was easy to get lost or confused. Fortunately, now that I've finished the book I can answer some of those for you. I can also recommend five books like What Lies in the Woods to you to read next. (Warning: This article contains spoilers)

What Lies in the Woods by Kate Alice Marshall

What is the Book What Lies in the Woods About?

When Naomi was 11 years old, she was brutally attacked in the woods while her two friends watched on. The three girls pointed the finger at the suspected serial killer, Alan Michael Stahl. Since then, Naomi has done everything to put it behind her. That is until the day Alan Michael Stahl dies of cancer in prison and her friends ask her to return to see them. What Naomi doesn't know is that during her return home, she will be forced to face the monsters she fears so deeply and the secrets that have been kept since that dreadful day.

Is What Lies in the Woods Scary?

While What Lies in the Woods is definitely suspenseful and creepy at times, I wouldn't say it is outright scary.

How Long Does It Take to Read What Lies in the Woods?

According to How Long to Read, it will take the average reader approximately 5 hours and 47 minutes to read What Lies in the Woods.

Who Is Persephone in What Lies in the Woods?

Persephone is the name Naomi, Olivia, and Cassidy give to a set of bones they find in the woods. It turns out those bones belong to a young girl named Jessi Walker, who was murdered shortly before Naomi's attack.

Who Attacked Naomi in What Lies in the Woods?

Olivia and Cassidy attacked Naomi, not Alan Michael Stahl. Cassidy used Olivia's mental illness and obsession with the Goddess Game to convince her a sacrifice was needed. This led Olivia to attack Naomi. However, she couldn't kill her, so Cassidy took over and inflicted most of the 17 stab wounds. Cassidy did this to Naomi out of jealousy of Olivia and Naomi's friendship.

Did Alan Michael Stahl Kill Anyone?

Yes, Alan Michael Stahl committed several murders in What Lies in the Woods. He did not, however, attack Naomi. When Naomi finds out that Ethan Schreiber is actually Alan Stahl Jr., he confirms that his father was a murderer and that he was okay with the lie Naomi told that put his father away. It was either that, or he would have to tell the police himself.

Who Is the Killer in What Lies in the Woods?

The killer in What Lies in the Woods is Cody Benham. He murdered:

  • Jessi Walker (aka Persephone) - Cody was in love her with and angry when she told him she was running away with Big Jim. They got in a fight when Jessi slipped and hit her head. Cody fled the scene and she died in the woods.

  • Olivia Barnes - Cody discovered Olivia was going to tell the truth about what happened to Jessi Walker but when things got heated, he killed her.

  • Cassidy Green - Cassidy was about to murder Naomi but couldn't do it. Cody offered and instead turned the gun and killed Cassidy to protect Naomi, as he always did.

It is worth mentioning, that while she didn't murder anyone, Cassidy was ready to kill Naomi for figuring everything out. She also blackmailed Cody into helping her cover up the truth and planted Olivia's suicide note.

How Does the Book What Lies in the Woods End?

After Naomi finds out it was Olivia who attacked her, she calls Cody Benham for help. They return to the woods to see Persephone when Cody admits he was the one who killed her, not Big Jim. At this point, Naomi realizes he is also responsible for Olivia's murder.

Cassidy shows up upon Cody's request and admits she knew about her father's affair with Jessi and that it was Cody who killed Jessi. She also admits she used Olivia's mental illness to get her to attack Naomi and continued to attack Naomi when Olivia couldn't. Cassidy then announces she intends to kill Naomi in the woods because she knows too much.

However, Cody intervenes and kills Cassidy instead. He cannot let Naomi go either though, so he chases and shoots her. She manages to hide in the grotto with Persephone though and calls Ethan for help. She is then rescued by Officer Bishop and Ethan.

Once she has healed, Naomi hosts a photography exhibit and returns to Chester to help her father clean up the house. She also reunites with Ethan, who asks her to help finish a book he is writing on their interconnected stories.

5 Books Like What Lies in the Woods by Kate Alice Marshall

If you've just finished What Lies in the Woods and enjoyed it enough to want to read another similar book, then here are my top five recommendations for books like it to read next:

We Are All the Same in the Dark by Julia Heaberlin

1. We Are All the Same in the Dark by Julia Heaberlin

Of all the books on this list, We Are All the Same in the Dark by Julia Heaberlin was the one I immediately knew had to be included because of just how similar the two are. Like What Lies In the Woods, this book is about a woman who reluctantly returns to her hometown, aka the source of her nightmares, even though she is still physically scarred from what happened to her there as a child. When she returns she finds sucked into and trying to unravel the secrets about two crimes - one from the past and one from the present - both involving young girls.

In My Dreams I Hold a Knife by Ashley Winstead

2. In My Dreams I Hold a Knife by Ashley Winstead

Much like What Lies in the Woods, Ashley Winstead's book, In My Dreams I Hold a Knife, focuses on solving a murder that happened in the past. In the book, a group of college friends returns to their alma mater for a reunion. Only when they arrive, the brother of their friend who died in college, demands to know the truth about his sister's death. The friends then proceed to each tell their part of the story and what they know about the murder in order to find out who the killer is among them.

A Flicker in the Dark by Stacy Willingham

3. A Flicker in the Dark by Stacy Willingham

The crimes of the serial killer, Alan Michael Stahl, were not the major focus of What Lies in the Woods given that he was not responsible for our main character, Naomi's, attack. But if that's something you think would make an interesting story, then you should check out A Flicker in the Dark, because it's a wildly interesting thriller. Here's what the book is about: 20 years ago, six girls like Chloe Davis disappeared without a trace and Chloe's father was convicted of the crimes. When young girls start disappearing and turning up dead in the present day, Chloe knows it can only mean one thing - a copycat is on the loose and she has to stop before another girl can be taken. To do this, she must face the dark secrets her family has long been hiding.

The Quarry Girls by Jess Lourey

4. The Quarry Girls by Jess Lourey

Just like Naomi in What Lies in the Woods, Heather in Jess Lourey's book, The Quarry Girls, knows her best friend's disappearance isn't what those in positions of power in her town claim it to be. She knows there is something more sinister going on and she's willing to do just about anything to find out exactly what that is. These two women are so incredibly similar and yet their stories are different enough to keep it interesting for you, the reader.

Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell

5. Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell

Unlike What Lies in the Woods or any of the other books on this list, Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell is told from the perspective of the mother whose young daughter has gone missing. Here's what it's about: 10 years ago, Laurel Mack's 15-year-old daughter went missing. In her attempt to move forward, Laurel finds herself swept up in a serious relationship with a man with daughters. Upon meeting them, questions about her own daughter reappear. "Where did Ellie go? Did she really run away from home, as the police suspected? Who is Floyd, really? And why does his daughter remind Laurel so viscerally of her own missing girl?"


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