I’m still digesting this book. It was completely unexpected, which was fantastic because the series (much as I love it) has become predictable. What saves it as a whole is the drastic shifts in perspective.
The Witch Elm shows us the law enforcement through civilian lives – the narrator is Toby, a young, handsome, successful thirty-something with two best friends, a loving family, a job he enjoys, and a girlfriend too good to be true. He takes all this for granted, always has, so when his safe and comfortable world is shattered, so is he.
Toby has a warm and strong support system but, just as he seems to be on the mend, another devastating discovery is made that blows it all up again. Everything he thought he knew about himself, his family, his past is suddenly suspect. Toby can’t trust himself or anyone else.
I’m being deliberately vague, here, because the plot is so intricate that there are a hundred ways to spoil it. So I’ll say this: it’s a very satisfying double-barrelled mystery that ends so tragically it might as well be an opera.
In a good way.
What the book is really about, though, is memory, the way we perceive ourselves and others, and how those things intersect. Sometimes disastrously.
The Witch Elm felt entirely different from anything else French has written, in part because none of the main characters are police officers or detectives. It’s also much more introspective and philosophical than the others.
My one criticism is that it’s too long. There are a series of twists at the end that feel tacked on for the hell of it, and that annoyed me.
Other than that, I loved it. Highly recommended.