Title: The Wych Elm
Author: Tana French
Publisher: Viking, Penguin Books UK
Publication Date: 21st February 2019
Summary: from Amazon
One night changes everything for Toby. He’s always led a charmed life – until a brutal attack leaves him damaged and traumatised, unsure even of the person he used to be. He seeks refuge at his family’s ancestral home, the Ivy House, filled with memories of wild-strawberry summers and teenage parties with his cousins.
But not long after Toby’s arrival, a discovery is made: a skull, tucked neatly inside the old wych elm in the garden.
As detectives begin to close in, Toby is forced to examine everything he thought he knew about his family, his past, and himself.
I have really liked the books I have previously read from Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad series so I was excited to hear about this new stand-alone novel. As with all of French’s books, it is quite lengthy but I absolutely flew through it. I just love the way French writes. She brings an evocative atmosphere to her stories but they still feel completely grounded in reality and her dialogue always flows beautifully.
The Wych Elm starts off introducing the reader to the character of Toby. He comes across as just a little arrogant but French still manages to keep him rather likeable. The real story starts after Toby suffers a horrific attack leaving him with severe injuries, both mental and physical. The scenes of the aftermath of the attack are some of the most effective I have read about trauma. They felt so brutally honest in the way Toby reacts to his situation. The book then moves on to Ivy House, a large home belonging to Toby’s uncle where he and his cousins spent a great deal of their youth. Toby moves into the house to help his unwell uncle and that is where the mystery begins.
What I love about Tana French books is that I very rarely have any idea where the story will end up and The Wych Elm was no different. I felt like the plot moved slowly enough for the reader to really appreciate the way Toby reconsiders his whole life but also throws in enough twists and shocking moments that the book feels urgent and unpredictable. A lot of The Wych Elm is about the subjective nature of memory. Two people can remember the exact same event in two completely different ways, and this is what forces Toby to reevaluate the relationships with his closest friends and family. I loved the way these relationships were portrayed and picked apart throughout the novel.
I would absolutely recommend The Wych Elm and it would be a great introduction to Tana French’s work if you haven’t read her books before. The characters felt so real to me and I was completely immersed in their lives from beginning to end. Things did not end up quite the way I wanted or expected them to, but then real life rarely does and this didn’t take away from my enjoyment of this complex mystery.
I received an e-arc of this book from Netgalley. My review is my own honest opinion.