50 pages 1 hour read

Tana French

The Witch Elm

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2018

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Authorial Context: Tana French

Born in the United States, Tana French attended international schools in multiple countries before moving permanently to Dublin, the setting for most of her crime novels (including The Witch Elm). French’s first novel, In the Woods, begins her best-selling and award-winning Dublin Murder Squad series. Her novels received international praise, and a 2019 television series (Dublin Murders) follows the first two books in the series.

The Witch Elm deviates from French’s other crime novels in that the perspective shifts from that of detective to that of suspect. She wanted to display the power dynamic between a detective and his suspects (Shapiro, Lila. “Tana French on the Witch Elm, #MeToo, and the Divisive Ending of in the Woods.” Vulture, 15 October 2018). Toby, who already feels a loss of control over his life after being assaulted, develops disdain for Detective Rafferty as he invades Ivy House and destroys the garden. He feels “a savagery that made no sense but I didn’t give a fuck” (215) when speaking with the detective. Rafferty himself resorts to questionable tactics to coerce Toby into a confession, taking advantage of his physical ailments and PTSD symptoms.