5 star review: The Witch Elm by Tana French

Anna: New favorite book (and author?) alert! VERDICT: 5 stars

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Toby is the kind of guy who has always had it easy. He’s always been fairly popular, successful at his job, and has never had to worry about money. Until one night, when he’s beaten so badly in his apartment that he nearly dies. Afterwards, he experiences amnesia and some brain trauma. Following his accident, Toby learns that his Uncle Hugo is dying of brain cancer. Toby and his cousins return to Uncle Hugo’s Ivy House, where they spent their summers growing up. When they find a dead body in the Witch Elm on the property, everyone in the family is a suspect–and Toby, it seems might be suspect number one.

I couldn’t put this down. The Witch Elm is the kind of book that rewards you the more you read, as the events in the beginning seem unrelated at first and slowly become more and more a part of the larger plot. What I really love about this book is that French’s characterization is fantastic. Toby is an often unlikable and undeniably realistic character who I’m pretty sure I would hate in real life. After Toby’s accident, he’s forced to examine how he’s treated others over the course of his life. 

There’s also the murder aspect of the book, which twists and turns the more you read. Because of Toby’s amnesia and other evidence, Toby is immediately one of the top suspects in the murder, and he graps at nothing as he tries to remember what he might have done. On top of it being a who-done-it-book, at its core The Witch Elm is a complicated family drama about the secrets families keep together and the ones they keep from each other. 

I’ve already put In the Woods, at hold at the library, the first book in Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad series. I can’t wait to read her backlist!

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