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The Witch Elm
Cover of The Witch Elm
The Witch Elm
A Novel
Borrow Borrow
Named a New York Times Notable Book of 2018 and a Best Book of 2018 by NPR, The New York Times Book Review, Amazon, The Boston Globe, LitHub, Vulture, Slate, Elle, Vox, and Electric Literature
"Tana French's best and most intricately nuanced novel yet." —The New York Times
An "extraordinary" (Stephen King) and "mesmerizing" (LA Times) new standalone novel from the master of crime and suspense and author of the forthcoming novel The Searcher.

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.
Named a New York Times Notable Book of 2018 and a Best Book of 2018 by NPR, The New York Times Book Review, Amazon, The Boston Globe, LitHub, Vulture, Slate, Elle, Vox, and Electric Literature
"Tana French's best and most intricately nuanced novel yet." —The New York Times
An "extraordinary" (Stephen King) and "mesmerizing" (LA Times) new standalone novel from the master of crime and suspense and author of the forthcoming novel The Searcher.

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.
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Excerpts-
  • From the cover Five

    Susanna swooped Sallie onto her hip, grabbed Zach's arm in the same movement and hustled the pair of them back up the garden, talking firm reassuring bullshit all the way. Sallie was still screaming, the sound jolting with Susanna's footsteps; Zach had switched to yelling wildly, lunging at the end of Susanna's arm to get back to us. When the kitchen door slammed behind them, the silence came down over the garden thick as volcanic ash.

    The skull lay on its side in the grass, between the camomile patch and the shadow of the wych elm. One of the eyeholes was plugged with a clot of dark dirt and small pale curling roots; the lower jaw gaped in a skewed, impossible howl. Clumps of something brown and matted, hair or moss, clung to the bone.

    The four of us stood there in a semicircle, as if we were gathered for some incomprehensible initiation ceremony, waiting for a signal to tell us how to begin. Around our feet the grass was long and wet, bowed under the weight of the morning's rain.

    "That's," I said, "that looks human."

    "It's fake," Tom said. "Some Halloween thing—"

    Melissa said, "I don't think it's fake." I put my arm around her. She brought up a hand to take mine, but absently: all her focus was on the thing."

    Our neighbors put a skeleton out," Tom said. "Last year. It looked totally real."

    "I don't think it's fake."

    None of us moved closer.

    "How would a fake skull get in here?" I asked.

    "Teenagers messing around," Tom said. "Throwing it over the wall, orout of a window. How would a real skull get in here?"

    "It could be old," Melissa said. "Hundreds of years, even thousands.And Zach and Sallie dug it up. Or a fox did."

    "It's fake as fuck," Leon said. His voice was high and tight and angry; the thing had scared the shit out of him. "And it's not funny. It could have given someone a heart attack. Stick it in the bin, before Hugo sees it. Get ashovel out of the shed; I'm not touching it."

    Tom took three swift paces forwards, went down on one knee by the thing and leaned in close. He straightened up fast, with a sharp hiss of in‑breath.

    "OK," he said. "I think it's real."

    "Fuck's sake," Leon said, jerking his head upwards. "There's no way, like literally no possible—"

    "Take a look."

    Leon didn't move. Tom stepped back, wiping his hands on his trousers as if he had touched it.

    The run down the garden had left my scar throbbing, a tiny pointed hammer knocking my vision off-​kilter with every blow. It seemed to me that the best thing we could do was stay perfectly still, all of us, wait till something came flapping down to carry this back to whatever seething otherworld had discharged it at our feet; that if any of us shifted a foot, took a breath, that chance would be lost and some dreadful and unstoppable train of events would be set in motion.
    "Let me see," Hugo said quietly, behind us. All of us jumped.

    He moved between us, his stick crunching rhythmically into the grass,and leaned over to look.
    "Ah," he said. "Yes. Zach was right."

    "Hugo," I said. He seemed like salvation, the one person in the world who would know how to undo this so we could all go back inside and talk about the house some more. "What do we do?"

    He turned his head to look at me over his shoulder, pushing up his glasses with a knuckle. "We call the Guards, of course," he said gently.

    "I'll do it in a moment. I just wanted to see for myself."

    "But," Leon said, and stopped. Hugo's eyes rested on him for a moment, mild and expressionless, before he bent again over the...
About the Author-
  • TANA FRENCH is also the author of In the Woods, The Likeness, Faithful Place, Broken Harbor, The Secret Place and The Trespasser. Her books have won awards including the Edgar, Anthony, Macavity and Barry Awards, the Los Angeles Times Award for Best Mystery/Thriller, and the Irish Book Award for Crime Fiction. She lives in Dublin with her family.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from August 20, 2018
    Reviewed by Julie Buntin, The Witch Elm is Tana French’s first standalone, following five Dublin Murder Squad mysteries. It’s as good as the best of those novels, if not better. In theme and atmosphere, it evokes her earliest two books, Into the Woods and The Likeness, using the driving mystery—of course, there’s a murder—as a vehicle for asking complex questions about identity and human nature. But in this latest work, privilege is French’s subject; more specifically, the relationship between privilege and what we perceive as luck. Who might we become if the privileges we take for granted were suddenly ripped away?, Instead of a world-weary detective, our narrator is Toby, an easygoing 20-something who has always taken his wild good fortune as a matter of course. He’s attractive, clever, and universally liked. A publicist for a Dublin art gallery, he has a girlfriend so saintly that it takes a while for her to register as a real character (or at least for him to see her that way). Then robbers break into his apartment and beat him so badly that the physical damage permeates every aspect of his life, fundamentally altering his appearance, his gait, and his sense of self. His memory is newly riddled with gaps; his frustration as he attempts to discern what’s real, what’s remembered, and what’s paranoia adds fuel to the plot. While he’s in the hospital, his beloved Uncle Hugo, keeper of the Ivy House, a family property that’s rendered with French’s signature attention to real estate, is diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. Toby moves in with him, both to keep him company and because he, too, needs a caretaker., When a human skull turns up in a hollow of a witch elm in the backyard of the Ivy House, the plot revs its engine. Who does the skull belong to? And what does Toby have to do with whoever died in his backyard, or at least who was buried there? In typical French fashion, just when you think you’ve started to piece it all together, the picture shifts before your eyes. It’s a bold move to wait until nearly a third of the way into the book to deploy the body. But what might seem like throat-clearing in another writer’s novel is taut and tense in The Witch Elm, thanks to a layered network of subplots and the increasing fragmentation of Toby himself. In many ways, the most interesting question the novel asks is not whodunit; it’s whether, and how, Toby will come back together again., Stepping outside the restrictions of the Dublin Murder Squad format suits French. Readers used to the detective’s perspective might miss the shop talk, not to mention the pleasure of inhabiting the POV of the smartest character rather than (in this case) the most bewildered. By channeling the story through a narrator who’s unfamiliar with the very worst parts of human nature, she’s able to put her thematic questions at center stage . She carefully builds Toby up, and then strips every part of him away; the result is a chilling interrogation of privilege and the transformative effects of trauma. , Julie Buntin is the author of Marlena, a novel.

  • AudioFile Magazine Narrator Paul Nugent's conversational delivery turns Tana French's stand-alone mystery into a painstaking confession over pints at a pub. Nugent's earnest tone makes the privileged and oblivious Toby seem charming as the story dives into the ripple effect of becoming a crime victim. After suffering a severe head injury from a brutal burglary, Toby stays with his ailing uncle in the ivy-covered family home. When a skull is discovered in the witch elm in the backyard, Toby begins to question his cheery memories of his youth and his relationship with his cousins. Nugent's myriad character voices sound authentic, keeping the listener locked inside Toby's head. French's faithful listeners will recognize the Dublin detectives who become involved, with Mike Rafferty taking the lead in the ivy house case. S.T.C. � AudioFile 2018, Portland, Maine
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The Witch Elm
A Novel
Tana French
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