Book Review: 'The Farm'

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Tom Rob Smith. Grand Central, 368 pp. $26.

I went into Tom Rob Smith's latest novel, "The Farm," with the frame of mind I've begun to associate with thriller novels. They're generally fast-paced, and therefore pretty quick to read. But they're relatively devoid of much depth regarding character and plot development. They're entertaining, provided you're not expecting much else from them.

I wasn't expecting the story Smith offered. Daniel, had settled into a comfortable routine between the two lives he led. In one, he lived happily with his partner in a fashionable loft in London. In the other, he avoided traveling to Sweden, where his parents had bought a farm in hopes of living their retirement peacefully, because he hadn't told his parents he was gay and didn't really want to breach that subject with them.

With one phone call, however, his worlds collide. His father called him to tell him that his mother has been admitted to a mental hospital following a psychotic breakdown. While at the airport for the next flight out, he learns that his mother has voluntarily discharged herself and is on her way to London to see him. According to her, his father is the one who is not who he appears to be. Daniel reluctantly lets her into his home and waits patiently while she tells her account of the events that lead to her committal.

What I loved about "The Farm" was the unreliable narrator. I was always on my toes reading this book, second-guessing every detail in the story, not knowing who to truly believe. In one scenario, the mother is a crazy woman who has been known to resort to violence when approached in a certain way. In another, she's a woman in grave danger who refuses to be ignored. And Daniel is caught in the middle.

Smith is also the author of "Child 44," "The Secret Speech" and "Agent 6." His novel "Child 44" is in production for a film starring Tom Hardy, Vincent Cassel, Noomi Rapace and Gary Oldman. Film rights to "The Farm" have also been sold.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: