Toby Hennessy knows he’s one lucky guy. He’s got a great job, a fantastic girlfriend and plenty of buddies to share a pint with at the pub. One night, however, his luck runs out when he is robbed and beaten in his apartment. As the police investigation drags on, so does Toby’s recovery and he feels increasingly uneasy about staying in his apartment. Coincidentally, Toby’s beloved Uncle Hugo is diagnosed with brain cancer, so Toby and his girlfriend move into his large estate to help care for him. Toby gradually recovers physically from the beating, but his memory and sense of who he is return more slowly–who is he, if he’s not lucky Toby? As Hugo’s illness progresses, the three of them fall into a comfortable familial routine until the day one of his visiting young nephews discovers a skull in a deep hole in the large old elm tree in the garden. Once again, Toby is involved in a police investigation which never seems to end, and the questions the cops are asking suggest to Toby that they suspect a family member of murder. Or perhaps they suspect him.
Tana French is one of my favorite authors and The Witch Elm, her first stand-alone thriller, did not disappoint. She carefully develops her characters and their past relationships. Toby gradually realizes that Hugo’s lovely old estate where he romped as a carefree child holds dark secrets, and he starts to wonder what part he may have played in its past horrors.
The Witch Elm isn’t a fast read, like so many other thrillers. Tana French takes the time to get into your head and mess around with it. The tension builds slowly until the final pages of the book and its shocking ending. I thoroughly enjoyed every bit of this book. Highly recommended.