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Do not understand why this was on the best-seller lists and why I bothered to finish it. Unsympathetic characters, pointless narrative. Yes, it was well-written but long-winded and overdone. Completely lost on me. Many other better reads out there right now.
Maybe at a third of the length, this might have been OK. Maybe.
I want my mystery/thrillers to have some mystery or thrill in them. This one had neither. After 10 pages of interminable nothingness I tried skipping thru. That didn't work.
I have no idea how the skull got into the tree and I have absolutely no interest in finding out.
Too much useless, uninteresting verbiage.
I mistakenly gave this 1 1/2 stars . 1/2 would have been more than enough.
4 1/2-5 star read. I love Tana French's novels and have read all of them. This is her first stand alone and it was a terrific read, full of twists and turns and surprises. Toby is one of those people who has always had it all, great guy, lots of friends, great at school and at everything he tries. It's effortless and he makes it look easy. Working in PR for an art gallery, Toby does something shady and gets caught out and sent home by his boss for a week. That night, something terrible happens in his home that changes his life in a major way. He becomes a hermit, never leaving his flat, until hearing that his beloved Uncle Hugo has had a terrible diagnosis and is dying. Toby and his girlfriend Melissa head to Ivy House to tend to his uncle. But when a skull is found in the garden by the wych elm tree, things from the past threaten Toby and his cousins Susanna and Leon. A compelling page turner, this book has ups and downs galore and a great story that keeps you interested from beginning to last page. A winner for French.
3.5 up to 4. I really enjoyed this! Toby is an ordinary, privileged guy from an upper class family. Luck has always been in his favor, and his charm has come in handy whenever luck has failed. Then his apartment is burglarized, and he is attacked and nearly killed. Not long after, he is staying with his uncle in the home where he spent his childhood summers, and a skeleton is discovered in the backyard. Are the two events connected? Is Toby guilty of something that he can't even remember? Can he trust those he felt closest to? French has created another twisty story that will keep you guessing. This wasn't French's strongest book for me, the start was a bit slow and I didn't love the main character, but it was still so suspenseful and well plotted that I stayed up way too late to finish it off.
I can’t say more than the critics. I was totally absorbed from beginning to end. Characters are well developed, not just names to hold a story in place. I can’t believe I haven’t read Tana French before. She will be on my list to follow.
Shame on you, Ms. French, for writing such drivel!! And shame on me for reading 500+ pages of this nonsense, simply because her murder squad novels have been SO intense and un-put-downable!! Such is my faith in this author that I firmly believed this book was going to - HAD to - - - go somewhere interesting; sadly that was not the case.
When an author describes every ache and pain or every flower in the garden for pages and pages I lose interest. Gave up reading this book about 1/4 way into it. Just wanted her to get to the mystery!
Read first few pages but decided to forego the 500+ page investment. Agreed with the ‘needs an editor ‘ comment.
Couldn’t put it down. Lots of twists and turns. Bad boys, bad boys, whatcha gonna do?
This book is a fascinating thriller and a profound, subtle critique of the good old boys network. I chose it from the NY Times list of 100 notable books 2018.
I tore through the first part of this psychological thriller, savoring the vague sense of suspense underlying callow, privileged Toby's narration, his struggle to adapt to life with brain damage, and sense of dislocation. And I was drawn in to the scenario of Toby and Melissa playing at domesticity while caring for Uncle Hugo. But eventually the novel became too much of a good thing: pages and pages of dialog and different threads of plot taking forever to unravel. French seems to bend over backwards to give every character equal weight, regardless of their importance to the plot. Near the end I found myself skimming Toby's internal monologues, which had become repetitive without revealing much. I had a few issues with the plot as well, which I won't detail here to avoid spoilers, but did not understand what prompted Uncle Hugo's final action or why Detective Rafferty bothered to pay a call on Toby at the end. Also, I'm not a fan of moral relativism, so the sensibiity that "person X got away with a crime, so it's only fair that everyone else does too" did not sit well.
Despite my reaction to The Witch Elm, I admire French as a writer of contemporary mysteries. I've read and enjoyed two of the Dublin Murder Squad books, and will undoubtedly read more.
Elegant prose and enough plot twists to keep interest thru longish length. Colorful well-developed story; keep an open mind to absorb obviously-flawed main character to read-thru this meaty well-plotted, character-driven novel. A little patience pays off richly!
This is the first (and last) book by this author that I will read. What a bore!
I have to agree with Arapahoe Alice and the other reviewers -- Toby was an unsympathetic (and not that interesting) character, and it took way too long to get to the unsatisfying ending -- there's no redemption for anyone here. I hope this isn't the new trend for Tana French.
A departure from Tana French's Dublin Murder Squad novels, this novel is much more in the vein of The Girl on the Train than many that claim the honor. Toby's life seems charmed and heading exactly in the direction he wants it. His quick wit and good looks have always helped him talk his way out of any type of trouble and into great situations for himself. What happens though, when a near-deadly attack takes away his sharp mind, and leaves him with scars, a droopy eyelid, a limp and a stutter?
This is a lovely story with people who have flaws. It's also an examination of the trauma that happens in the aftermath of a brutal attack. It's also a mystery novel with an unreliable narrator who doesn't even know whether he is unreliable or not. I love French's Murder Squad novels but I was thoroughly delighted with this one too. It's long and leisurely, great for rainy spring mornings!
Way too long. Good story. Enjoyed it for the most part. Kept me interested, although I did skim some to help cut to the chase
I was thoroughly sick of Toby before the end. Couldn't believe the saintly Melissa. Love Tana French mysteries. Checking out Val McDermid and Denise Mina.
I read this for the "A Book With A Plant on the Cover" part of my 2019 reading challenge. I almost really liked it. I found the first part pretty slow and dreary, but the second part really picked up speed. I liked how intense the investigation was, but I did not like the resolution or the ending and I don't like Toby as a character at all.
While this is a mystery, it certainly isn’t the whodunit type. It’s more of a lengthy psychological examination, presented by an unreliable narrator.
This book shows us why some crimes go unsolved for so long. Absolutely macabre, chilling premeditation. This is off the track but not for the reasons you'd think.
I have read and enjoyed very much all her previous books. In spite of all the bad reviews by regular folks, not critics, I got it yesterday. Two hours was all I could take. Just took if back. I dont have a problem with criminals being the protagonist, I have enjoyed many, but I just hated this guy and knew I could not spend the required time in his company.
This book is a big commitment and a slow burn. Normally I'm a big Tana French fan so I had high expectations going in.
This is an interesting murder mystery because it is not told through the eyes of the investigators but through the central character Toby, a 20-something art gallery worker, who is the victim of a brutal burglary in which he’s left for dead. He goes to recuperate with his uncle at Ivy House and it is here that a skull is discovered in the garden’s Witch Elm. From there the mystery really commences. The trouble is the skull isn't unearthed until close to the 200 page mark by which point I let out a huge sigh of relief expecting the story to gain momentum. Except it didn't! French is a skilled writer and this is a complicated character driven psychological drama. It's just that it goes on and on, a bit to long. I really feel it could have been trimmed and still been an equally well told story.