The Witch Elm by Irish Author Tana French is a crime novel in which fate and coincidence play twisted roles in the course of fatal events. The story deals with the question of what motivates a person to murder as much as the details of the actual murder itself.
Toby Hennessey is a young man living a normal, content life when two random events suddenly wrench that life into crisis. First, he is the victim of a home break-in and brutal beating that leaves him coping with a serious head injury. Then, while visiting his old family country home, The Ivy House, a human skeleton is found inside a huge elm tree on the property. A police investigation finds the skeleton belongs to a murder victim from years earlier. When the victim is identified, he was a friend who hung around with Toby and his family members at one time.
As the police press continued questions, Toby's damaged memory struggles to recall the past. Is it possible he could have been involved in the murder? Or perhaps his cousins or his uncle? The more Toby tries to answer these awful questions, the worse his mental condition becomes.
The Witch Elm is an engrossing psychological crime novel that builds slowly to a disturbing revelation. The one quibble with the book is it's overwritten length at five hundred pages. Dialogue scenes go on in talky circles far too long. At a hundred pages shorter, the novel could have been even more unsettling.