Thanks to Viking for a copy in exchange for an honest review! Publishing October 9th!
CW: bullying, attempted sexual assault, homophobia, burglary, graphic beating, and cancer
I’m really conflicted about this book. Really, really conflicted. Because, on one hand, it wasn’t at all what I expected and was something new from French, who is an author I love from her Dublin Murder Squad series, yet it also wasn’t as exciting as I wanted it to be. It waffled between three and four stars for me, but I landed on four.
At first, I thought this was a retelling of Who Put Bella in the Wych Elm, a famous unsolved mystery from England. But it’s just inspired by it. Which works because there are so many weird theories and thoughts about that case, so she was able to take the idea of a body found in a tree without dealing with anything else.
But, what is this book really about?
It’s about Toby, a man who has the whole world going for him… until a brutal home invasion leaves him scarred, both physically and mentally. His uncle, Hugo, is dying of cancer and, for a break, he moves in with him as a caretaker. One day, his cousin Susanna’s kids are playing and finds a skull in the witch elm in the lawn.
From there, the secrets pour out.
It’s a slow read. Like, it took nearly 40% of the book to get to actually finding the skull — which is why I think the synopsis gives too much away, but also the title immediately calls the unsolved mystery to mind so it’s hard to get away from spoilers. Then the hunt took forever. The reveal came at 80%. Then there was still 20% to build-up.
That’s a huge con for me, honestly, yet it oddly worked at the same time?
It’s a family drama. Okay? It’s not a crime procedural like she’s done in all her other books. It focuses on the family Toby has. His dying uncle Hugo, his own memory loss, his stay-at-home-mom cousin Susanna, and his gay, wandering cousin Leon. And everyone’s important to the book in some way. The story revolves around this family drama and the unsaid things and secrets kept.
I can’t say too much more than that, honestly. It’s one of those weird books where everything happens but nothing happens. If you want something thrilling, this isn’t the book for you. If you want something that meanders the path to get to the conclusion, you’ll like it.
What’s your favorite Tana French novel?
Is this one on your TBR?