The Witch Elm

The Witch Elm

Book - 2018
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Named a New York Times Notable Book of 2018 and a Best Book of 2018 by NPR, The New York Times Book Review , Amazon, The Boston Globe, LitHub, Vulture, Slate, Elle , Vox, and Electric Literature

"Tana French's best and most intricately nuanced novel yet." -- The New York Times

An "extraordinary" (Stephen King) and "mesmerizing" ( LA Times ) new standalone novel from the master of crime and suspense and author of the forthcoming novel The Searcher .

From the writer who "inspires cultic devotion in readers" ( The New Yorker ) and has been called "incandescent" by Stephen King, "absolutely mesmerizing" by Gillian Flynn, and "unputdownable" ( People ) comes a gripping new novel that turns a crime story inside out.

Toby is a happy-go-lucky charmer who's dodged a scrape at work and is celebrating with friends when the night takes a turn that will change his life--he surprises two burglars who beat him and leave him for dead. Struggling to recover from his injuries, beginning to understand that he might never be the same man again, he takes refuge at his family's ancestral home to care for his dying uncle Hugo. Then a skull is found in the trunk of an elm tree in the garden--and as detectives close in, Toby is forced to face the possibility that his past may not be what he has always believed.

A spellbinding standalone from one of the best suspense writers working today, The Witch Elm asks what we become, and what we're capable of, when we no longer know who we are.
Publisher: New York, New York : Viking, [2018]
ISBN: 9780735224629
0735224625
Branch Call Number: FRENCH T
Characteristics: 509 pages ; 24 cm

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a
AnnSkye
Apr 09, 2021

This novel really kept me reading. I quite enjoyed it but found the ending not up to par with the rest of the story.

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gloryb
Mar 26, 2021

This author is so good at writing! In this novel focussed on character development, she uses dialogue between characters to create their past and present lives. There is a cold case murder in the plot, but the skeleton doesn't appear until Chapter 5, not until she has set the scene and readers have got to know abit about her 3 main twentysomething characters -cousins - their friends and family. Although the plot is set in Dublin, Dublin itself and the way its people talk isn't a noticeable part in this stand alone novel. I do admit I didn't read the novel word for word as the author is just too good in stretching a moment of a character's life into several pages. It's as though she can see them in her mind reacting to each other and knowing just who would say what. The dialog among her characters may be lengthy, but never trival, never just filler words. At first, it was difficult to see what the plot of the story was until I got to Chapter 5. What kept me reading was to find out how the skeleton and skull got placed into the hollow of the elm tree in the uncle's backyard. Indeed the novel is long with tension at a minimum as the characters point fingers at each other and have interviews with the detectives. Towards the last one hundred pages, the suspense grew, there was an unexpected twist also so that I was no longer skimming the pages, but reading every word. Excellent plotting afterall.

c
chrisburzo
Mar 26, 2021

Her worst book by far, and I love the Murder Squad books. Unlikeable protagonist, terrible ending.

k
KnitOrRead
Mar 25, 2021

The pluses: Tana is great at creating visual stories - you can literally picture yourself in the Ivy House, surrounded by crazy aunts, loud uncles and mischievous cousins. And once you get past the disjointed and non-promising beginning, you'll want to fly through this twisted plot. I badly wanted to skim through the last chapter, I'm glad I didn't, it would have confused me even more. You've guessed, there are minuses, too, and other readers have already said the same - bad beginning, bad ending. I am actually not sure I have a one-word opinion about this book. So far (and still) I think the "Secret Place" is her best. I'll give it one more plus: I thought all the dialogs involving the detectives were very clever, and the detectives are actually your guides through this nightmare. Try to see the story through their eyes.

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Ione65
Mar 21, 2021

Awful...could not get passed the first three chapters.

k
kcrasto
Mar 15, 2021

I agree with the comment about the story going on far longer than was needed. I found this book hard to get into. It felt like the first chapter should have been chapter 3, like I had started the book in the wrong spot, very abrupt beginning, and very abrupt ending. Had the book ended a few chapters sooner, I think I would have given it a higher rating, but it almost felt like the author had to meet a page quota so was trying to figure out a way to keep the story going and then decided it wasn't worth it and so just ended it.

JCLHilaryS Feb 04, 2021

A stand alone novel that follows an Toby Hennessey as he struggles to figure out a murder. Overall, it was enjoyable, but the portions that were supposed to build tension and atmosphere were a little long and made reading it less enjoyable. The ending was a twist, and one that was a welcome change to the typical unreliable narrator story line.

t
tjdickey
Dec 30, 2020

Sometimes "people find out they are not who they always thought they were," and where does that leave them? How do the effects of our thoughtless actions ripple down the ages in their effect on the lives of others? Tana French's characteristic depth and intensity of characterization plays out through the generations of a family living on the boundaries of dysfunction.

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BARosen1112
Dec 12, 2020

Tana French's first non-Murder Squad novel, the mystery this time revolves around the sudden appearance of a skull found in a large hole in a 200 year old wych elm tree in the garden of the home of the protagonist's (Toby) beloved Uncle Hugo. The story is told from Toby's perspective, and as usual French gives us a mystery, (who killed the school mate of Toby and now adult cousins ) which is secondary to her in-depth psychological character study. No one writing mysteries today writes as beautifully as French, and this one is well worth your time!

e
eclairemoore
Nov 26, 2020

A horrible book. No re-deeming value. Too long and could have benefited from a good editor. A downer from the beginning to the end. This was not so much a mystery but the examination of the destruction of the protagonist.

This is the second of this author’s books thatI have read and will be the last. Left a very bad taste in my mouth.

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ArapahoeMaryA Mar 13, 2019

But we’re so desperate, aren’t we, to believe that bad luck only happens to people who deserve it. People genuinely can’t take it in that someone could die of cancer without bloody well smoking.

ArapahoeStaff26 Jan 10, 2019

"...for whichever reason, growing apart or fighting or cheating or just getting old and dying, relationships don't last forever...But I was really in love with Jo. And ... I genuinely couldn't handle that." pg. 332

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JCLGraceB Oct 18, 2018

JCLGraceB thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over

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