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We had a small but interesting discussion for the May book: The Witch Elm by Tana French. The book was named a New York Times Notable Book of 2018, and a Best Book of 2018 by NPR, The New York Times Book Review, Amazon, The Boston Globe, LitHub, Vulture, Slate, Elle, Vox, and Electric Literature.

Quite a list of accolades, most of which would not have been given by us at Crime & Beyond. I think it’s safe to say we did not vote it the best book of 2018, or 2019 for that matter. Most of it stemmed from the fact that the book could really be taken in 2 pieces: pre-skull and post-skull.

When we were tasked to give the book a score pre-skull, the numbers were very low and ranged from a 1 to a 4. Post-skull numbers were much higher and the post-skull storyline seemed to redeem the book for many people. Post-skull scores ranged from 5 to 8.

For those who didn’t care for the book, Amy’s comment really sums it up: “There was no murder and no mystery. I wanted a fresh body.” Other feedback was that it was hard to care about any of the characters, the ending where Toby killed the cop came out of nowhere, and basically the book was too long and could have opened with the skull and ended with the confession.

For those who liked the book, the feedback was that the beginning was a necessary setup for the attack on Toby. That attack was necessary for his life to fall apart, for him to move in with his uncle, and for the skull to be found. The relationship between the cousins was another interesting part, it was well written and realistic.

On another note, the unreliable narrator was well done. Our protagonist with a head injury was preferable to a whiney, drunk, pill popping female narrator. I’m not sure we will read another Tana French book based on the discussion, but stranger things have happened. As long as it’s not In the Woods, I might be convinced.

The next meeting is June 24 and we will discuss Dark Sacred Night by Michael Connelly. Raj is bringing snacks.


P.S.DON’T FORGET TO WEIGH IN ON THE MURDER MYSTERY PARTY DATE – DEADLINE TO HELP PICK A DATE IS THIS FRIDAY, JUNE 7. If you didn’t get my email with dates, please let me know and I’ll resend.