Friday, November 16, 2018

French's Newest Slower, More Meditative, But Compelling Nonetheless

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

A charmer with an uncanny knack for lucking his way out of every scrape, 28-year-old Toby Hennessy is celebrating his latest near-miss when his luck finally runs out.  When he surprises a pair of thieves in the act of robbing his flat, Toby is beaten and left for dead.  Although he survives, he suffers a traumatic brain injury that results in debilitating anxiety and panic attacks.  Needing a change of scenery, Toby flees Dublin for the Ivy House, his ancestral home in the country.  

Toby's idyllic country retreat is shattered when a skull is discovered inside a witch elm on the property.  When the remains are identified and motives are ascertained, Toby is left with a mystery to solve.  With the help of two cousins with whom he grew up, he tries to make sense of his past, a prospect that is suddenly much grimmer and perplexing than he ever thought.  His closest friends and relatives are keeping damning secrets—can Toby uncover the truth they're hiding?  Does he even want to?  

As much as I love the Dublin Murder Squad series by Irish crime writer Tana French, I admit I was intrigued when I heard she would be publishing her first standalone novel.  While The Witch Elm shares similarities with French's previous books, it's also quite different.  Slower moving and more meditative.  Which doesn't mean it's not compelling.  It is.  It's just engrossing in a different way.  Although the story revolves around a mysterious death and involves a police investigation, The Witch Elm is not a crime novel per se.  That is, it's not so much about solving a case as it is about looking inside the heads and hearts of some very intriguing characters.  While the action does ramp up toward the end, the book's finale is depressing and pointless, but also thought-provoking.  Overall, I liked The Witch Elm, although it's definitely not my favorite from French.  

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of other books by Tana French)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language, violence, drug use, sexual content, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-ARC of The Witch Elm from the generous folks at Penguin via those at Edelweiss.  Thank you!

4 comments:

  1. Your review reads as though this takes place in the late 1800s or early 1940s, but I realize it could be modern day. It sounds like this would be a good PBS mystery episode. :-)

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    Replies
    1. Really? Huh. I didn't mean to make the book sound old-fashioned, but I guess it does have kind of a timeless feel to it. It's set in present day, though.

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  2. I will admit that I've been very curious about this first standalone book by Tana French. Doesn't this seem like the year that a lot of series authors are doing standalones? Looking forward to reading this or actually, I have it on audio and will listen to it.

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  3. I like this author and I hope I can track this one down. Thanks for the post.

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