The Witch Elm

a large tree trunk
Tana French
Star Rating
Reviewer's Rating
Aug 25, 2021

In this stand alone mystery, Toby Hennessey suffers a severe beating during a break in to his apartment. He provides care to his dying uncle while he recuperates from his injuries, reminiscing and reliving the best parts of his salad days. The first third of the book is taken up with getting to know more about Toby & his family relationships, mainly his two cousins, Susana and Leon, and his Uncle Hugo.  The discovery of a skull inside the ancient elm tree in Hugo's garden interrupts the idyllic setting and moments of the Ivy House. Toby's head injuries makes him an unreliable narrator, trying to piece together his memories from his teen years, what happened during his break in and what is happening with his cousins now. Unfortunately for Toby, he isn't really up to the job and his positive progress in recovery starts to regress, but he doesn't see it.  Eventually, we get to a confession and find out who is responsible for killing a young man and hiding him in the tree cavity. There are quite a few passages of long reflection and conversations that slow the pace, and when we finally reach the climax of the confession, it's too long and drawn out. I just wanted it to be over.  The wrap up was a twist, and I appreciated the complexity of the overall plot and direction of the story.

Reviewed by Hilary S.
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