The Witch Elm

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 01 Apr 2019

Member Reviews

Thank you very much for allowing me the opportunity to read this book!  I appreciate the kindness. 
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This psychological thriller is a real page-turner. I stayed up late several nights not only reading but also thinking about the bombshells that had just been dropped!

Toby is a hip young professional working in Dublin in public relations at an art gallery. He's got a great career, great girl friend, great friends and family and considers himself a lucky guy until one night intruders break into his apartment and beat him nearly to death. He struggles to recover especially from the head injury that leaves him anxious and unable to remember large parts of his life. Seeking peace he goes to the old family homestead to stay with his uncle who has his own health struggles and needs assistance. Together they settle into a routine that brings each of them contentment until during a weekly Sunday family meal with all the cousins and aunts and uncles a disturbing "treasure" is found. A skull is in the garden. Toby and his entire family are swept up in a murder investigation and Toby doesn't know whether he can trust anyone, not even himself.

The characters in this novel are very well developed with multiple layers. I found myself not knowing whether I was rooting for or against them and I often hated them vehemently which speaks to the excellence of the writing if Tana French can evoke that kind of feeling from her readers. This is one that stays interesting all the way through and no way will you guess "whodunnit" as the author explores masterfully the difference between who committed the crime versus who is responsible for it and there's definitely plenty of blame to go around!
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This stand-alone book by Tana French, author of the highly-regarded Dublin series, starts out innocuous enough with Toby enjoying a night out with the lads A self-admitted lucky guy, Toby's life is about to do a 180.  He returns home from the pub and is awakened during the night by intruders who rob and assault him. They leave him seriously injured, including a severe blow to the head. As part of his recovery process, Toby and his girlfriend move into the family homestead owned and occupied by his Uncle Hugo, who has terminal cancer. Life falls into a rhythm of quiet but satisfying mutual support for all three of them until an unfortunate discovery upends everything. From this point on, the plot is revealed very slowly, page-by-page.. Character development is key to the plot. Nothing comes together quickly. Nothing foreshadows the outcome. Highly recommended!
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I know people love Tana French and I think she is a very talented writer, but she's just not my cup of tea. There was something so confusing about the beginning of this book for me. I just couldn't understand what in the world was going on.
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Good read with lots of twists and turns in the plot.  However, I could not warm to the characters and found them somewhat unlikeable.  The mystery was a bit rambling and went off in several different directions a few times.  Overall, not as good as this author's previous books that I have read.  Still most will likely enjoy this book.
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I'm a fan of Tana French and have generally enjoyed all the books of hers I've read so far. I did like The Witch Elm but not as much as I've liked her other work, unfortunately. I think the main sticking point for me was how unlikable the main character was. I have mixed feelings, because I think French knew exactly what she was doing and intentionally created a character so deep in his own privilege that he fell apart the moment he faced any actual adversity. I think she actually did this very skillfully, and her exploration of privilege was interesting and well handled. That said, I just found Toby so frustrating as a narrator, and was so annoyed by all his decisions, that it made the book somewhat less enjoyable for me. I also don't think the pacing was quite as well done as in some of her other work.

One other thing I could have done without were some of the slurs included. There weren't a lot, and I realize this was part of Toby's characterization, but they still bothered me and seemed unnecessary to include. 

Overall, it's not a bad book, and others might not be as bothered as I was by various aspects. I think it's worth a read if you're a fan of Tana French, even if it's not her best.
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As a Tana French groupie, I was thrilled to see she was writing a standalone outside of the Dublin Murder Squad (as much as I adore those). The Witch Elm had French's classic enigmatic and ethereal way of writing, plus a twisted murder mystery as she is wont to do. I can't say much about the actual plot, as the description does it justice already, but this is just another great masterpiece from Tana French, with the bonus of it being a standalone with a new cast of characters. Highly recommended.
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Another winner from Tana French. The problem with her books is I can’t get any sleep as I stay up all night reading!
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I like her other books, the Dublin murder squad very much. However, I couldn't get in to this book. I didn't like the main character very much.  The beginning was very slow going too .
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I really love Tana French, but this one was not my favorite. It took me awhile to get into and moved slower than I would have liked. I'm sad, but I know that I'll be looking out for her future books anyway. I'll support Tana no matter what because she's one of my favorite authors.
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I thought the first 75% of this book was extremely compelling and French set up a beautiful mystery. The resolution dragged a bit. The audio was very well read.
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Tana French has done it again! She is the best when it comes to crime fiction. This is her first standalone in years and it surely entertains! The characters are well-developed. The writing is strong and fast-paced. If you've never read a French novel, you'll be fine starting here, but do yourself a favor and start reading the most addictive author on the market now!
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I so wanted to love this book.  I have read all of Tana French's other novels and really enjoyed them.  I was, therefore, looking forward to this new edition to her work.  But I was sadly disappointed.  The main character, Toby, was quite depressing and not all that likable as were most of the characters. The story was drawn out, rather tedious and slow.  It seemed to be mostly dialogue going nowhere.   For me, it was a hard book to finish with a rush to wrap up an ending.  I will still check out her next novel and hope it is more on the line of her previous work.
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I tried a few times to get into this book and just couldn't, which is a real shame because I really like the Dublin Murder Squad. This one just doesn't seem like one of her best.
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What can I say, Tana French is the best in the biz, and anytime her work is published it is a revelation!  Highly recommend this one as well.  What a time to be alive when we can read such amazing fiction.
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I've read every Tana French book since her first and, while this one was good, it wasn't her best by any stretch.  I love when writers branch out from their series work, but I didn't think there was enough story here to warrant the nearly 500 page length.  It really dragged on and on.  That being said, she's an excellent writer and character builder, so it did hold my attention...it just took me far longer to complete than it should have.
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I have heard great things about Tana French, but I wish I had started elsewhere. This was slow and hard to get into and gave me no desire to see it through to the end.
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As a true crime fan with an interest in the legend of Bella in the Wych Elm, I anxiously awaited Tana French's lastest novel. I was not disappointed! I finished the book in a matter of days, reading in the car, on the train, while cooking dinner... The plot was truly character-driven, and as a reader, I found myself diving deep into the psychological workings of not only the narrator, Toby, but also his family, friends, and the detectives investigating the various crimes in the novel. While the story was certainly not a retelling of Bella in the Wych Elm, it was just as jarring and gripping, with a compelling ending and a variety of engaging characters. I will absolutely be purchasing a copy for my library and recommending The Witch Elm to friends!
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What a delightful switch up.  Although the story still has characters from the Dublin Murder Squad, Tana French uses the unreliable voice of the victim to tell this tale.  We have cons, and burglaries, violence, familial love and skewed relationships all vying for top billing in this story.  Our narrator takes us on an emotional and psychological roller coaster that often left me feeling drained. The characters are poignant, and proud. Ms. French has created a fascinating murder mystery that is jarring and filled with warmth at the same time.
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Disappointing—French’s Dublin mysteries are favorites of mine, but this doesn’t hold a candle to her Dublin series. Toby’s an interesting character, dealing with physical, cognitive and emotional challenges after the break-in. But his upper crust sensibilities and self-centeredness wear thin, especially through the pages and pages where nothing happens. His cousins seem scurrilous and Uncle Hugo a tad odd—making me suspicious early on. There are flashes of drama and eventually a mystery, but readers must endure endless descriptions and thought processes before the climax and conclusion.
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