Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Witch Elm” as Want to Read:
The Witch Elm
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Witch Elm

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  7,560 Ratings  ·  1,376 Reviews
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 ...more
ebook, 464 pages
Published October 9th 2018 by Viking
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Witch Elm, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
James Are you annoyed the rating came from an ARC or galley, or are you annoyed the rating is low for an author you like? The former is a legit complaint,…moreAre you annoyed the rating came from an ARC or galley, or are you annoyed the rating is low for an author you like? The former is a legit complaint, the latter is just your opinion. I hate ratings of any sort from an ARC or galley, but I also hate when people argue someone's opinion of a book just because it doesn't jive with their opinion. We all have our favorite authors, but even a great author can write a piece of shit book, and giving high ratings for shit books just because you want to be seen as a loyal fan of said author is unfair to other Goodreads members. If you want to kiss up to an author, do it on their website, not a public book forum.(less)
Kiki You'll be disappointed, if my experience holds true for you.

I waited so anxiously for this book and started devouring it, but had to set it aside from…more
You'll be disappointed, if my experience holds true for you.

I waited so anxiously for this book and started devouring it, but had to set it aside from time to time because the repetition was so mind-numbing. The main character is shallow and unlikeable. The first 4 chapters went on forever. Then, about a quarter of the way past the turning point, I knew who did it. The final "event" -- after the reveal -- came across as impossible, not necessarily because of Toby's character, but because of the character of the other person.

I don't want to nitpick some other things because I'm trying to avoid spoilers, but there are other unlikely points. But overall, the book is way too long (don't just go by pages; the type is very small).

So what if it's beautifully written if it's beautifully written bullshit? With sadness, I gave it two stars.


Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Rating details
Sort: Default
Emily May
Apr 08, 2018 rated it liked it
I actually didn't love a Tana French book... the world is broken. I just knew I jinxed it by writing that first paragraph in my review of The Secret Place.

I keep trying to convince myself to bump this up a star because it's hard to believe Tana French can write anything that isn't amazing. It's definitely not a bad book, but The Witch Elm - French's first standalone outside of her Dublin Murder Squad series - just didn't contain a lot of the stuff I've loved from this author.

To start with, I fee
oooh, goodreads choice awards semifinalist for best mystery & thriller 2018! what will happen?


OH MY GOD, IT'S HERE! AND IT'S NOT AN ARC - IT'S A FINISHED COPY AND IT'S MIIIIIIINE! goodbye, rest of day. you belong to tana french now.


UPDATE - while my plan to corner an unscrupulous intern (harlequin presents #945: cornering the unscrupulous intern) may have failed, the universe has provided, and i am
Sep 22, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: edelweiss
2 and 4 stars. If I could give this a dual rating, I would!

Explanation of rating: I had 5-star expectations for The Witch Elm--Tana French is one of my favorite authors and while I haven’t loved all of her books, I really enjoyed the most recent installments of the Murder Squad series. Unfortunately, my expectations were not met. There were parts of the Witch Elm that I loved, but others not so much.

It’s hard to describe The Witch Elm--it’s part mystery, part thriller, part family drama. Prim
Oct 23, 2018 rated it it was ok
The Witch Elm by Tana French is a 2018 Viking Books publication.

Luck. Toby has never really considered his, until now. He’s always had an easy go of things, able to talk himself out of any potential trouble or situation with his easy charm. But, Toby’s luck has changed overnight. First, he gets into serious trouble with his boss, then his home is broken into, and he is beaten within an inch of his life.

While his parents and faithful, adoring girlfriend are rock solid support systems, Toby is i
Susanne Strong
Oct 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: edelweiss
4.25 Stars* (rounded down)

There is something about the feeling I get before reading another Tana French novel that calms me and makes me want to sit in a big old comfy chair, with a cushy pillow and a lush blankie surrounding me. I just know that I’m going to be settling in for an in-depth read with highly intelligent, well thought out, interesting characters and I immediately prepare myself. I grab a nice warm cuppa and before I know it, hours have gone by and I am in the thick of it. Such was
Jul 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Lucky and genial Toby meets the guys for a night out to celebrate his circumvention of a potentially career-wrecking incident at work. Afterwards, he is nearly beaten to death by intruders and his life changes dramatically. He lands at Ivy House to care for his terminally ill uncle and to recover from his own serious injuries. A skull is found in the Wych Elm which takes this finely crafted novel into the events of the past as experienced by the participants looking back from the present day. Im ...more
Love LOVE and more LOVE for The Witch Elm by the amazing Tana French!!

Amicable Toby is a happy-go-lucky guy who fancies himself as one the "The Lucky Ones." He has a great job, although he did create a major mess there  - but he sorted out his mess so it's all good. He has an amazing girlfriend to whom he is faithful, except for a bit of a roving eye. And he has two terrific mates who love him, at least he thinks they do. But Toby's luck is about to change when he is brutally beaten and robbed i
Elyse Walters
Oct 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
.... safe to read....
It’s a sin to spoil a Tana French novel.
I’ve been reading Tana French since 2007. My memory is clear...I walked into “Borders” looking around...
“Into the Woods” was a new release. I had never heard of the author - but liked what the inside flap said, took a blind chance, bought it... came home and inhaled it instantly. I became an ‘annoying’ book pusher.
I was telling strangers off the street about the new mystery-thriller author Tana French and her amazing ch
Diane S ☔
Sep 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 In this rather lengthy stand alone, French again explores the sense of identity, as well as the question, How well do we really know another person? Three cousins, children of four brothers, who have all spent their summers, vacations from school at the house where their unmarried Uncle Hugh lives. Grown up now, not as close as they once were, they all come together after Toby is attacked in his apartment and left for dead. Although he makes it, he has lingering effects from the attack, one ...more
Dorie  - Traveling Sister :)
I had only read one book before from this author and that was “The Trespasser” which I loved. This book was just an o.k. read for me, here’s why.

I’m getting a bit tired of unreliable narrators, this seems to be a trend lately. Toby is about as unreliable as you can get since he has suffered a severe brain injury right at the beginning of the story. It all starts, as he states, on the night that he walked home from the pub to his house quite drunk and went to bed without turning on the door alarm
Oct 28, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Apologies to everyone who loves this book, but for me, it’s okay with some good sections thrown cropping up.

A superficially likable and self-absorbed main character, Toby, encounters his first care in the world. Well, I’ll cut him some slack. His fortunate circumstances aren’t his fault nor his credit. But no, the more I know him the less that I like him.

I know! He is severely injured from a brutal beating during home invasion burglary and only saved from death by receiving superb medical care
Theresa Alan
Oct 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Wow. This is a very different novel for Tana French. Still wonderful writing and still more than one mystery to solve, but this isn’t a detective-tracking-down clues story. Instead, the first big thing doesn’t happen until about thirty pages in, and the second really big thing doesn’t happen until you’re well into the novel. This allows for serious character development not just of the protagonist, Toby, but of the supporting cast as well. I found myself incredibly invested in how things would t ...more
Jun 28, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2018-reads, arcs, e-books
This review and other non-spoilery reviews can be found @The Book Prescription

“These are doctors. I don’t know what kind of social‑ justice‑warrior shite you’ve been reading, but their job is to make people better, if they can. Which sometimes they can’t. That doesn’t mean they’re evil villains rubbing their hands and looking for ways to fuck up people’s lives.”

🌟 Have you ever watched a TV series or a film and you knew from the start it is not just for you, but it was interesting enough to make
This was just as well-written and impactful as all of Tana French's books, but it wasn't as personally satisfying. It was a slow-burn mindfuck from the perspective of one of the suspects in a murder rather than the detectives. I'm going to have a lot to say about it. Full review later.
Oct 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018, ireland, kindle
[4.5 stars]

This is definitely a slow burn of a novel. But boy does it build up to a pretty explosive ending—probably more than any other Tana French novel I've read. I don't think this would be a particularly great place to start with French's work, even though it stands totally free from her Dublin Murder Squad series. However, it definitely has the same bones as those novels, but it just feels different in tone. Her characters in this as far less likable, which I didn't mind at all. And she's
Oct 16, 2018 added it
Shelves: dnf
DNF - No rating - will not be included in my 2018 book challenge.

Oh man, I was so excited for this one. When I saw it as an auto download I nearly screamed before hitting that button. I even gushed to my Goodreads friends to hurry up and grab a copy.

Ooops. My bad.

Tana French is a skilled writer without a doubt but this book went on and on and on and on and on. The pacing was slow as molasses. I honestly don't care about anything that's happening or the people it is happening to.

Maybe my timin
Dan Schwent
Oct 17, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018-books, 2018
After suffering a brain injury during a burglary at his apartment, Toby goes to live with his terminally ill uncle Hugo. When a skull is found in a hollow tree on Hugo's property, the cops eye up Toby as a suspect. But with his brain injury, he can't be sure he's responsible or not...

I've been awaiting this Tana French book since it was available for pre-order since her Dublin Murder Squad books are some of my favorite things. I almost canceled my pre-order when I saw this was a standalone but s
Oct 09, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: edelweiss
Again I find myself making a first attempt at an author I’ve heard so many good things about and walking away with a meh feeling. Best known for her Dublin Murder Squad series The Witch Elm by Tana French is a standalone so it seemed the perfect opportunity to try this mystery.

Toby is our main character in The Witch Elm and to be honest my first problem with the book. You see, Toby and his happy go lucky attitude came off as a bit of a jerk to me so it’s hard to connect with a character that ann
Jessica Woodbury
Sep 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I recommend knowing as little as possible about this book when you start it. Not even the jacket copy, if you can. While I almost always recommend this for crime novels, this one in particular is quite slow and the typical summary gives you at least one big twist from the early sections that is best enjoyed cold. However, this makes reviewing the book very hard because it does many things so exquisitely but it's hard for me to talk about them without more spoiling than I think a reader should ha ...more
Nov 03, 2018 rated it did not like it
DNF at 50%

I spent a long time struggling over this review. I hate insulting my favorite authors. They feel like my friends and I’m betraying them. I ADORE Tana French. In the Woods is one of my all-time favorite mysteries. However, it pains me to say that The Witch Elm, just didn’t do it for me.

The Witch Elm deviates from the Dublin Murder Squad construct. In it, Toby, a 20-something art gallery worker, is the victim of a brutal burglary in which he’s left for dead. A severe head injury leaves
Oct 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Extremely patient readers
3.5 stars

It took 10 hours (audio) of being bored out of my mind for this book to finally capture my attention. Only a devout Tana French fan would suffer through so much yawn to get to the good stuff. The pacing is just off. This is not French's best endeavor for sure. Detectives investigating cases is what she knows best.

However, when French gets to the murder - she shines, as always. I loved to once again witness the slow untangling of motives, digging into forgotten pasts and gradual dissembl
May 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a standalone, and not part of the Dublin Murder Squad series, but don't let that deter you - Tana is still as perfect as ever.

Without spoiling anything, I can tell you that this book is about male privilege, the mutability of identity, the crushingly mundane horrors of everyday life as a human in the world, PTSD, family bonds, and, uh, owls.

What strikes me every time I read one of French's novels is how absolutely masterful she is at voice, imagery, and sense of place. What's more, she
Oct 29, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have mixed feelings about this book. It’s well-written with fully developed characters, but the story fell flat for me.

There’s only one point of view throughout. Toby is telling the story, and he is unreliable due to a traumatic brain injury he received during a break-in at his apartment. I was sympathetic to his physical damage, but wondered if he was always truthful about his memories.

There’s a straight timeline. No hopping from present to past and back. Toby’s story starts when he’s healthy
Oct 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: edelweiss
4.25 slow burning stars
My reviews can be seen here: http://yayareadslotsofbooks.wordpress...

Sometimes no matter how much you think you know others, as well as yourself, surprises happen and you find out what you thought to be true was false and what you thought was false was true. “The thing is, I suppose,” he said, “that one gets into the habit of being oneself. It takes some great upheaval to crack that shell and force us to discover what else might be underneath”

Toby, has gone through a horr
I have mixed feelings about The Witch Elm.

This is a standalone Tana French novel – the first she's written that isn't part of the Dublin Murder Squad series. It's the story of Toby, a real golden boy: wealthy, handsome, popular and charming, with a loving girlfriend, close family and cushy job, he seems to have everything going for him. That all changes one night when he surprises a pair of burglars in his living room. When he attempts to confront them, Toby is savagely beaten and left with a li
I will not be rating this. I got to 100 pages and calling it.
This is my first DNF for the year!! :(

My thoughts so far:
Why did you write such a boring character Tana French?!
I don't care for the main character of Toby and the story is boring. I know there is a mystery coming up but I don't care at this point. I'm not sure why she wrote a 500 page book and it takes until the 1/2 way point of the book to get to the mystery.
I can understand character development but not when it's 200+ pages of it an
Olive (abookolive)
See my review on booktube:

AND Open Letters Review!
Nov 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
This is the SLOWEST slow burn of a book, but holy cow did that ending really win me over.
Oct 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

The Witch Elm is a masterful portrait of a man whose luck and life have been changed forever and then it gets even worse.

What exactly is luck? Toby has alway considered himself a lucky guy. And maybe he is. He has managed to go through life without any misfortune. Everything in his life was going exactly as it should. He has a nice apartment, a great job, and a beautiful girlfriend. And then everything changed forever. One spring night Toby’s apartment is broken into, he is brutally beat
Life has always been pretty easy for Toby--school, girls, job, etc. All that changes in an instant, however, after a night out with his two best friends. Upon arriving home, Toby surprises two burglars in his home. They beat him horribly, leaving him with terrible injuries that may impact his life forever. Unable to go back to work, Toby reluctantly heads to the Ivy House, his family home, where he spent many happy summers with his cousins. His Uncle Hugo is ill--with irreparable brain cancer--a ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
Final Round
4,100,010 Votes Cast
Tana French is the New York Times bestselling author of In the Woods, The Likeness, Faithful Place, Broken Harbor, The Secret Place, The Trespasser and The Witch Elm. 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.
No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »
“The thing is, I suppose,” he said, “that one gets into the habit of being oneself. It takes some great upheaval to crack that shell and force us to discover what else might be underneath” 3 likes
“what if I never got another day in my life when I was normal again?” 1 likes
More quotes…