Published: 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.
The Witch Elm asks what we become, and what we’re capable of, when we no longer know who we are.
I was expecting so much more from this book but in the end it was a complete disappointment.
It takes so long to get to the main mystery, although I get the point of the lengthy build-up in order to understand Toby as a character – someone who has been handed everything in life without having to face the struggles others would have, and someone who cannot believe it when he meets his first misfortune – but that didn’t make it any more enjoyable to get through. It’s a good many chapters before the main story even rears its head.
Unfortunately, too much time was wasted getting to this part. The story moved so slowly, I started getting a little fidgety. The plot became knotty and cumbersome, and the pace never picked up, tempting me to do the unthinkable- mark a Tana French novel down as a DNF, but I persevered.
There was not a lot of real action in this book and listening to the characters have pages and pages of dialogue about something unrelated to the plot almost put me to sleep.
In the end, I plodded onward, but there was something seriously off about the book’s structure, and that ending was utterly depressing. Yes, one might have a different point of view on that, but I’m going with the glass half empty on this one. It just didn’t work for me. I gave it three stars but that was generous.