Our next book club book will be The Witch Elm by Tana French! This latest novel from the greatest mystery writer working today (in my opinion, anyway) rolled onto the market last autumn, so hopefully you’ll be able to get your hands on a library copy by now without too much delay!
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.
Highlight white text for content warnings: sexual harassment, physical assault, terminal illness, death and dying, suicide, homophobia, ableism, sexism
For those of you looking for hosting ideas, here are some easy snacks and beverages you and your book club compatriots can enjoy while discussing French’s latest work. And for those of you who are looking for something more beyond the book itself, here are some articles and books which either tie into French’s novel or expand upon its themes and content.
Antoinette Conway, the tough, abrasive detective from The Secret Place, is still on the Murder squad, but only just. She’s partnered up with Stephen Moran now, and that’s going well – but the rest of her working life isn’t. Antoinette doesn’t play well with others, and there’s a vicious running campaign in the squad to get rid of her. She and Stephen pull a case that at first looks like a slam-dunk lovers’ tiff, but gradually they realize there’s more going on: someone on their own squad is trying to push them towards the obvious solution, away from nagging questions. They have to work out whether this is just an escalation in the drive to get rid of her – or whether there’s something deeper and darker going on.
Tana French! Oh, Tana French. She is, unquestionably, one of my all-time favorite authors, and certainly the best mystery author I’ve ever read. The Trespasser had just come out and, since we had both just gotten our long-awaited copies from the library, my friend and I decided we might as well read it for book club. Our three-hour discussion was then regularly punctuated with exclamations of, “Oh my god! Tana French is just so good.”
The competition is fierce, but I think this might well be my favorite book of the entire Dublin Murder Squad series. If you’ve never read anything by Tana French, I highly suggest you start. (It’s not essential that the Dublin Murder Squad series be read in order, but I would recommend it.) If you love mystery books that aren’t really mystery books but actually tightly focused explorations of one character’s subjective point of view, or if you love beautifully written books in which every single sentence is dripping with unbearable suspense, then reading this book would be a good idea.
Discussion questions under the cut!