The Witch Elm

The Witch Elm

Large Print - 2018
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Jul 13, 2019

Couldn’t put it down. Lots of twists and turns. Bad boys, bad boys, whatcha gonna do?

Jun 25, 2019

This book is a fascinating thriller and a profound, subtle critique of the good old boys network. I chose it from the NY Times list of 100 notable books 2018.

Jun 10, 2019


Jun 05, 2019

I tore through the first part of this psychological thriller, savoring the vague sense of suspense underlying callow, privileged Toby's narration, his struggle to adapt to life with brain damage, and sense of dislocation. And I was drawn in to the scenario of Toby and Melissa playing at domesticity while caring for Uncle Hugo. But eventually the novel became too much of a good thing: pages and pages of dialog and different threads of plot taking forever to unravel. French seems to bend over backwards to give every character equal weight, regardless of their importance to the plot. Near the end I found myself skimming Toby's internal monologues, which had become repetitive without revealing much. I had a few issues with the plot as well, which I won't detail here to avoid spoilers, but did not understand what prompted Uncle Hugo's final action or why Detective Rafferty bothered to pay a call on Toby at the end. Also, I'm not a fan of moral relativism, so the sensibiity that "person X got away with a crime, so it's only fair that everyone else does too" did not sit well.
Despite my reaction to The Witch Elm, I admire French as a writer of contemporary mysteries. I've read and enjoyed two of the Dublin Murder Squad books, and will undoubtedly read more.

Jun 01, 2019

desperately in need of an editor.

May 31, 2019

Not bad. Dark. Not a part of the Dublin Murder Squad series.

May 31, 2019

Elegant prose and enough plot twists to keep interest thru longish length. Colorful well-developed story; keep an open mind to absorb obviously-flawed main character to read-thru this meaty well-plotted, character-driven novel. A little patience pays off richly!

May 10, 2019

This is the first (and last) book by this author that I will read. What a bore!

May 08, 2019

I have to agree with Arapahoe Alice and the other reviewers -- Toby was an unsympathetic (and not that interesting) character, and it took way too long to get to the unsatisfying ending -- there's no redemption for anyone here. I hope this isn't the new trend for Tana French.

IndyPL_CarriG Apr 22, 2019

A departure from Tana French's Dublin Murder Squad novels, this novel is much more in the vein of The Girl on the Train than many that claim the honor. Toby's life seems charmed and heading exactly in the direction he wants it. His quick wit and good looks have always helped him talk his way out of any type of trouble and into great situations for himself. What happens though, when a near-deadly attack takes away his sharp mind, and leaves him with scars, a droopy eyelid, a limp and a stutter?
This is a lovely story with people who have flaws. It's also an examination of the trauma that happens in the aftermath of a brutal attack. It's also a mystery novel with an unreliable narrator who doesn't even know whether he is unreliable or not. I love French's Murder Squad novels but I was thoroughly delighted with this one too. It's long and leisurely, great for rainy spring mornings!

Apr 05, 2019

Way too long. Good story. Enjoyed it for the most part. Kept me interested, although I did skim some to help cut to the chase

Apr 01, 2019

I was thoroughly sick of Toby before the end. Couldn't believe the saintly Melissa. Love Tana French mysteries. Checking out Val McDermid and Denise Mina.

Mar 20, 2019

I read this for the "A Book With A Plant on the Cover" part of my 2019 reading challenge. I almost really liked it. I found the first part pretty slow and dreary, but the second part really picked up speed. I liked how intense the investigation was, but I did not like the resolution or the ending and I don't like Toby as a character at all.

ArapahoeMaryA Mar 13, 2019

While this is a mystery, it certainly isn’t the whodunit type. It’s more of a lengthy psychological examination, presented by an unreliable narrator.

Mar 04, 2019

This book shows us why some crimes go unsolved for so long. Absolutely macabre, chilling premeditation. This is off the track but not for the reasons you'd think.

Feb 28, 2019

I could not get into this book. Boring is what comes to mind.

Feb 15, 2019

I have read and enjoyed very much all her previous books. In spite of all the bad reviews by regular folks, not critics, I got it yesterday. Two hours was all I could take. Just took if back. I dont have a problem with criminals being the protagonist, I have enjoyed many, but I just hated this guy and knew I could not spend the required time in his company.

Raindancer Feb 06, 2019

This book is a big commitment and a slow burn. Normally I'm a big Tana French fan so I had high expectations going in.
This is an interesting murder mystery because it is not told through the eyes of the investigators but through the central character Toby, a 20-something art gallery worker, who is the victim of a brutal burglary in which he’s left for dead. He goes to recuperate with his uncle at Ivy House and it is here that a skull is discovered in the garden’s Witch Elm. From there the mystery really commences. The trouble is the skull isn't unearthed until close to the 200 page mark by which point I let out a huge sigh of relief expecting the story to gain momentum. Except it didn't! French is a skilled writer and this is a complicated character driven psychological drama. It's just that it goes on and on, a bit to long. I really feel it could have been trimmed and still been an equally well told story.

Feb 04, 2019

It had a pretty good mystery, but such heavy reading!

IndyPL_JudyG Feb 04, 2019

This was my first Tana French book. It was very long and the ending was not worth the effort it took to get to it.

DPL_Graham Jan 31, 2019

For Toby, Ivy House is a refuge, a place of childhood fun and love. A place where family and friends could gather together in safety and friendship. Blessed with the ability to see the bright side of life, talk his way out of troubles, and be a generally good friend to everyone it’s easy for Toby to drift through the world while being morally ambiguous towards life and work.

Unfortunately for Toby, his good fortune isn’t going to last forever, and the first blow comes when robbers beat the crap out of him using a candle stick. Stuck with a limp, a droopy eye, and a low-burning rage and unfamiliar emotions he has trouble controlling, Toby moves back to his childhood home to help his Uncle who has months left to live. When a skull is found in the giant Witch Elm in the garden the whole world is slowly pulled apart. Toby discovers that the past wasn’t as sunny for everyone who lived in Ivy House.

Tana French writes masterfully and the conversation and language always feel real and evenly paced. The setting and details are so well done you feel you can reach out and touch them or open a door to the room you are reading in and be inside Ivy House. The mystery and tension, the groping with unreliable narrators, and the pacing are very well done. French’s writing makes it easy to speed through the 500+ pages of this large novel. I’m not sure if this is a mystery or a thriller, but I do know it is a great book!

ArapahoeAlice Jan 28, 2019

Toby has it all--handsome, successful, manipulative. Then everything changes. He spends a great deal of the book reflecting on how everything has changed for him and how his past wasn't what he'd thought. If Toby wasn't such a shallow twit, this could have been interesting. I started skipping over the self-reflection pieces looking for the plot to move forward. It moved very slowly and wasn't that interesting when it was revealed.

As other reviewers have said, Tana French's book are known for her detailed analysis of the characters, often as interesting as the mystery. I ended up being bored by both the characters and the mystery in this book. The only person I wanted to know more about was Uncle Hugo, who seemed to have some depth to him. I slogged through the whole book and it wasn't worth the effort

Jan 28, 2019

This book well deserves the praise it has gotten. It’s creepy and has the reader confused right up to the end chapter. It is really different from her other books, and if you are expecting what she has written in the past you will be disappointed, but if you like watching an author grow and expand her writing style, you will enjoy this book. Yep, I still like her other books better, but I wasn’t disappointed in this one.

Jan 26, 2019

Irish writer Tana French's new novel is a case of a book that has a slow burn build up and then. . .well, the pay off isn't worth the slog. At 500 pages, it's way, way too long and could've been quite good at half the length.

Jan 26, 2019

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