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This was the book of the month in Waterstones, and had breathless praise on the cover from writers and reviewers who I respect. It was an interesting premise: a crime novel from the perspective of the victim. And I do enjoy a novel with a big rambling house at the centre.


Tana French can write a great sentence: the problem was that she wrote too many of them. It just went on and on. It started, eventually, with the central character, Toby, being a victim of a beating during a robbery (it even took a while to get there). He then goes to live with his ailing uncle in the family home, the Ivy House. It's not until halfway through the book that the central mystery gets going, and it is eventually solved (for the reader) by the perpetrator deciding to tell the whole story, at some length. I hate this as a plot device: it's as if the writer has written herself into a corner. It just wasn't credible that the character would do this rather than continue to keep the secret, and what the character had actually done wasn't credible either. And it's not very effective to tell such a major story through real time dialogue.


After this is resolved, there are still another 100 or so pages to go, and there's another big plot twist which was just unpleasant. I had lost interest but I felt there was a big resolution coming, and it didn't emerge. 

The story was very repetitive: endless descriptions of the effect of Toby's attack on his vision, lots of family meals and parties.


I felt as if she was trying to take the crime novel and do something more profound with it: a character study of the Toby, a reflection on privilege. I did enjoy the writing, and that's what kept me going, but it didn't either observe or play with the conventions of crime fiction, it just mucked about with them, and Toby wasn't interesting enough.

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3 hours ago, Minxminnie said:



Tana French can write a great sentence: the problem was that she wrote too many of them.

I have that problem with Tana French's books. They start brilliantly, I really enjoy the writing then then I start getting word weary.


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I had that problem with the second in the Dublin Murder series, The Likeness - it was just too long.  A shame as she's a good writer.  I will still carry on with the series though, and have the Wych Elm on my tbr.

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