The Wych Elm

The Wych Elm (which Blogger auto-correct insisted several times on changing to The Which Elm, and which seems to have been published in the US as The Witch Elm) is the first book I've read by Irish crime novelist Tana French. And it's very, very good.

Apparently this is French's first departure from a series about the fictional Dublin Murder Squad, and it centres on golden boy Toby whose life is upended after a brutal home invasion which leaves him mentally and physically wounded, and then by the discovery of a skeleton inside a tree at the house of his uncle Hugo, where he's staying to recover. With his newly unreliable memory, Toby has to wonder if he himself might have been the murderer... and if not him, then who?

Another character dying of a brain tumour! It's so weird that I seem to have been attracting these books all year; it's definitely not intentional. Hugo's cancer is ruthless but relatively slow moving; he hangs around long enough to take care of Toby even though Toby is supposed to be keeping an eye on him. This is a study of privilege, taken for granted and then lost; about being blithely oblivious to things that are obvious to others; about how it feels to be wrecked, and how fragile is our knowledge of ourselves.

This is a thick, densely layered but very readable novel, an intelligent, literary murder mystery. Is there a more satisfying kind of holiday book? And lucky me, now I know about Tana French, there are at least six more terrific books for me to explore!


  1. I think you'll really enjoy the other Dublin Murder Squad books, Kate! Start with "In the Woods". French writes complex, well-written, satisfying and often quite haunting novels.

  2. Thanks, Sue! I have reserved them ALL from the local library (they all have multiple reserves already).