Review The Witch Elm: A Novel by Tana French

Named a best book of the fall by Vogue, Entertainment WeeklyElle, Amazon, PopSugar, The Millions, LitHub, and Parade

A brilliant new work of suspense from “the most important crime novelist to emerge in the past 10 years.” (Washington Post)

From the writer who “inspires cultic devotion in readers” (The New Yorker) and has been called “incandescent” by Stephen King, “absolutely mesmerizing” by Gillian Flynn, and “unputdownable” (People), comes a gripping new novel that turns a crime story inside out.

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. Review


“Head-spinning. . . French has spun an engrossing meditation on memory, identity, and family. A master of psychological complexity, she toys with the minds of her characters and readers both.” –Vogue

“A crime thriller at the top of its game.” –InStyle 

“Spooky.” –Entertainment Weekly

“French’s alluring storytelling keeps you hooked.” –Time

“A thrilling novel about privilege, family lore, and perception.” –PopSugar

“The crime writer for people who think they don’t like genre fiction. Her prose is enveloping and intricate, but casually masks its cleverness. She sucks you in with mystery, then unfurls a masterfully rendered, super specific slice of Irish society.” –

“Tana French is at the cutting edge of crime fiction, and The Witch Elm pushes its boundaries further.” –The New Republic

“A spellbinding stand-alone novel carefully crafted in her unique, darkly elegant prose style.” –Booklist

“Prose so smooth you forget about it and just sink right in.” –Literary Hub

“Exquisitely suspenseful.” –Bustle

“Tana French’s The Witch Elm is a chilling mystery about the unreliability of memory.” –Real Simple

“You savor the details — the delicious portrayal of crisp fall weather in Ireland — as you race through the pages. . . A tick-tocking mystery and a fascinating portrayal of memory as a cracked mirror, through which the past can’t quite be seen clearly. –Seattle Times 

“An amazing read from an Iconic thriller writer.” –Mystery Tribune

“Fans of [Tana French’s] previous Dublin Murder Squad books will find themselves happily tangled up in her new novel, and ultimately delighted by the deep psychological dive she leads them on.” –Mystery Scene

“Edgar-winner French is at her suspenseful best in this standalone, in which an Irishman, who’s always considered himself a lucky person, has to reassess his past in the light of a gruesome find on the grounds of his family’s ancestral home.” —Publishers Weekly

“. . . the story is compelling, and French is deft in unraveling this book’s puzzles . . . Psychologically intense.” —Kirkus Reviews

“French’s slow-burning, character-driven examination of male privilege is timely, sharp, and meticulously crafted. Recommended for her legions of fans, as well as any readers of literary crime fiction.” — Library Journal

Praise for Tana French:

“A tour de force . . . When you read Ms. French–and she has become required reading for anyone who appreciates tough, unflinching intelligence and ingenious plotting–make only one assumption: All of your initial assumptions are wrong.” –Janet Maslin, The New York Times

“[Tana French] inspires cultic devotion in readers…most crime fiction is diverting; French’s is consuming.” –The New Yorker

“There’s nothing standard about French’s approach to crime fiction, which plays the form much like a jazz musician improvising on a standard. Even when the outlines of the mystery seem familiar…she finds a way to get at enriching themes and powerful emotional truths in fresh and surprising ways.” –Chicago Tribune

“To say Tana French is one of the great thriller writers is really too limiting. Rather she’s simply this: a truly great writer.”­ –Gillian Flynn

“Terrific–terrifying, amazing, and the prose is incandescent.” –Stephen King

“One of the most distinct and exciting new voices in crime writing.” —The Wall Street Journal

“French is a poet of mood and a master builder of plots.” –Maureen Corrigan, The Washington Post

“In all of the author’s work, meaning lurks beneath every quip and glance. French not only spins a twisty cop tale, she also encases it in meticulous prose, creating a read that is as elegant as it is dark.” —Associated Press

Customer reviews

kathleen g – TOP 500 REVIEWER
There are always high expectations for a novel by French. This one starts strong, fades in the later parts and then picks up again at the very end. Toby is living the good life running social media for a gallery and with his girl friend Melissa when his world explodes. The aftermath of his beating by home invaders is the most interesting part of this perhaps too long book. He moves in with his uncle Hugo, who is dying of brain cancer and then everything falls apart again when a skeleton is found in a tree (!) in the garden. Toby and his cousins Susanna and Leon all had relationships with the dead man. Who killed him? The convolutions here got a bit much and the ultimate resolution was, for me at least, unsatisfying. I didn’t care for either Susanna or Leon or their machinations. I did, however, like Hugo, a genial genealogist. What happened after, though, was interesting. Parts of this should have been pared away to make a tighter, more suspenseful read but it was still a good one. Thanks to Edelweiss for the ARC. I’d recommend for French fans.
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