Tana French has become one of my favorite authors. Her Dublin Murder Squad series (The Trespasser, Broken Harbor etc.) have all been some of the best books I have read. “Unputdownable” as one reviewer has said, testifying to the way French has mastered the art of suspense. But this new book stands alone, both because it is not a part of a series, but also because she has taken the crime novel genre to a new and different level.
Toby is one of those people who has lived a “golden” life. Smart, good looking, well off, lucky in life and love. He is the kind of person you would love to hate, except he is so friendly and charming it is almost impossible to hate him. But suddenly, Toby’s world betrayed him. One night after coming home a little inebriated from celebrating with some friends, Toby interrupts two burglars in his flat. They beat him and leave him for dead.
Toby lives, but suffers extensive injuries and begins to realize, to his horror, that he may never be the same person he was before the beating. The police investigate the robbery and the assault but there are few clues and Toby’s memory of the event is fuzzy at best. Trying to find a place to recover and get his life back together, Toby moves into the ancestral home with his Uncle Hugo who is dying of cancer. The old home and gardens have always been a source of solace to Toby and there he finally feels that he can recover. But when a skull is found in the hollow of the large elm tree in the garden, suddenly even that place of refuge becomes a place of conflict and distrust. As Toby cooperates with the police investigation he begins to see that the memories of his youth are not only far from complete but that his past may not have been what he always believed.
French takes the idea of an unreliable narrator and goes one step further to explore the idea that our memories are often flawed, and incomplete. Toby struggles on two levels, with a memory that seems unreliable from the beating, but also with a memory of the events of his youth that seem undependable and inconsistent. When he is implicated by evidence found in the tree, suddenly Toby begins to question everything.
French has captured the slow burning horror of someone who begins to doubt everything about themselves. She slowly lets us see through conversations with the police, his uncle, his parents and his friends how differently he experienced those past events as compared to how they experienced them and like Toby, you too, begin to wonder how much you can rely on what Toby remembers. Her ability to keep the suspense building in multiple ways, makes this one of those books you cannot put down. So beware!
Brenda’s Rating *****(5 out of 5 Stars)
Recommend this book to: Marian, Sharon and Keith
Book Study Worthy: Yes!
Read in ebook format.