The Witch Elm
Edgar winner Tana French (The Trespasser) diverges from her Dublin Murder Squad procedural series for the first time with a hair-raising standalone that asks if knowing oneself is truly possible.
Toby Hennessy always thought of himself as the lucky sort, until burglars break into his apartment and savagely beat him. Left with fractures and a head injury, he wakes up in the hospital forever changed. Not only does he have a long rehabilitation ahead of him, but the brain trauma has also blurred segments of his memory and left him with aphasia as well as trouble concentrating and regulating his anger.
Solace comes in an unexpected form when his cousin Susanna suggests Toby should stay a few weeks at their family home, the Ivy House, to keep an eye on their beloved Uncle Hugo, an elderly genealogist dying of cancer. However, their idyll shatters when Susanna's small children find a human skull in the hollow wych elm in the garden. Police identify it as belonging to a high school classmate of Toby, Susanna and their cousin Leon. As suspicion falls on his family, Toby tries to unravel the case before the cops do, but he must suspect everyone, even himself.
While an amateur sleuth as protagonist marks a departure from French's customary focus on a murder detective's point of view, her dark and thoughtful tone remains. Readers who correctly solve the murder ahead of time should keep reading, as she has a few 11th-hour jaw-droppers in store. While Dublin Murder Squad fans may long for the next in the series, The Witch Elm will satisfy cravings for French's blend of atmosphere and introspection. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads