The wych elm by Tana French

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Penguin Books, 2018. ISBN: 9780241379516.
(Age: 16+) Recommended. Themes: Murder, Psychological thriller, Bullying. What an unusual stand-alone mystery - who put a body found deep in a wych elm? Toby was a lucky man, handsome and popular, until one night he was assaulted at home and left with brain damage. Recuperating in his uncle's home, his idyllic view of family is shattered when his nephew finds a skull in the huge wych elm in the back garden.
The Wych Elm is the first book by Tana French that I have read for a long time. I was quite happy to read a stand-alone as I had no previous connections to the author's popular detectives.
Toby is the sort of man that the reader easily identifies with, casual and often thoughtless. His confrontation with how his cousins view him and his past actions, as well as his attempts at coping with his disabilities from his attack, make for a challenging and interesting background to uncovering who the murdered person is and why he was put into the wych elm.
It is a long book and often the murder takes second place to the personal trials of Toby and the family dramas that are uncovered along the way but fans of psychological thrillers with complex plots will find it a rewarding read. It was also interesting to later read about a real unsolved murder that had taken place with the body found in a witch elm.
The Wych Elm is definitely a novel for those who enjoy a long novel with many subplots of bullying, family dynamics and thought provoking actions.
Pat Pledger