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Title: The Witch Elm
Author: Tana French
Publish Date: October 9, 2018
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.
After returning home from a night out, Toby is attacked when he surprises two burglars in his place. He is severely beaten, and has a long road to recovery. During his recovery stage, he moves to his family’s ancestral home where his uncle resides. One day, when the whole family is gathered there for one of their routine family get-togethers, a skull is discovered in the trunk of an elm tree. As detectives investigate, Toby realizes his past may not be quite like he remembers it.
Toby is a happy and pretty lucky guy. Before the attack, things always seemed to work out for the best in Toby’s life. In some ways, that made his friends and family upset with him, because he didn’t necessarily recognize or understand when they had struggles in life. However, things change for Toby after his attack. This book covers a lot of topics – privilege, bullying, sexual harassment, memories, identity, and family loyalty.
The writing, as usual with Tana French’s books, is superb. The story is slow though. It’s mostly a good slow, but there was a portion of the book where nothing really happened. This book relies heavily on the characters. Other than the attack on Toby and a mysterious skull in the yard, very little other action occurs. I was really into the first part of this book, but then things slowed down. Real slow. Then, a skull was found in a tree. Ooh, a mystery. Then slow, again. I kept waiting for something to finally happen. And then it did happen. And it was glorious. Okay, maybe not glorious, but I was happy with how things unraveled.
A slow burning psychological thriller. Detailed, atmospheric, complex, and tragic.
I received a free eARC of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.