The Wych Elm is Tana French’s first standalone psychological suspense thriller.The author is known for her other psychological thriller that follow the murder squad in Dublin, such as ‘In the Woods’ and ‘The Likeness’. The main protagonist, Toby, has always had good luck and a life that many may dream about. Also, he has a good job, a beautiful and alluring girlfriend, loving parents and a devoted group of friends. Until one night, he is brutally attacked in his apartment. He gets seriously injured and traumatised. After the prolonged stay in the hospital, he tries to rediscover himself. He can get his job back, and his devoted and straitlaced girlfriend is more than willing to help him.
He returns to his family home, the Ivy House, where he used to play as a child with his cousins. Happiness does not last long. Soon a skull that had been tucked inside the old wych elm in the garden is discovered. The police are called again, and Toby meets one of the main antagonists in the book, Rafferty, again. From this point, the plot moves a million miles an hour. Toby needs to rewrite his relationship with his family and his cousins.
This does not augur well for Toby, who, in the end, loses in the criminal court, and only his family ties and influence protect him from a longer sentence. It appears that the random mugging helped him in a way to achieve a lesser sentence.
Tana French writes lyrically and poetically. However, at the same time, the readers are kept at the end of their seats at all times.