Title: The Witch Elm
Author: Tana French
Pub Date: October 2018
My Rating: ★★☆☆☆
View on Goodreads
Synopsis from Goodreads:
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.
A spellbinding standalone from one of the best suspense writers working today, The Witch Elm asks what we become, and what we’re capable of, when we no longer know who we are.
The Witch Elm was extremely slow and painful read. Tana French has a reputation for great mystery novels, and I was expecting to be amazed. But I was painfully disappointed.
The story starts with a bang, the main character Toby is brutally attacked by two unknown burglars. He suffers a head trauma and serious leg injury that will leave him limping. This is a big hit on the perfect life of a confident successful PR specialist in an art gallery. He suffers from a post-traumatic stress disorder and won’t be able to come back to work for a long time. Instead of that, he moves to his uncle house where he used to spend his childhood and even teenhood summers with his two cousins.
After the initial set of events, that gives us an interesting background to the potential mystery we are bored with pages and pages of uneventful family life of Toby. We get to know his family relationships very well… And there’s nothing truly captivating in this story. Only about after a third of the book we finally get to the main event that the whole mystery is set around. But no of the mysteries are set in a way that made my heart race, they didn’t make me scream internally demanding answers. I was absolutely indifferent to the story. Could there be something worse? The resolution to the mystery was so unemotional and lacklustre. It was like reading a process document – go there, do this because of that and you get this results.
What’s even worse is the main character. He was unbearable! He didn’t miss any opportunity to mention how much better his life was than his friends or his cousins. His internal monologues were tough to get through without falling asleep. His motives are often pitiful, not even evil or jealousy. There were just childish and pitiful, and even all the pages about this family dynamics didn’t help me find some reason why he would act like this.
The Witch Elm wasn’t at all enjoyable read for me. My emotions when reading this book were moving from boredom to indifference to annoyance to boredom again.