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The new international bestseller from the author of phenomenal Child 44 trilogy... The Farm If you refuse to believe me, I will no longer consider you my son. Daniel believed that his parents were enjoying a peaceful retirement on a remote farm in Sweden. But with a single phone call, everything changes. Your mother...she's not well, his father tells him. She's been imagining things - terrible, terrible things. She's had a psychotic breakdown, and been committed to a mental hospital. Before Daniel can board a plane to Sweden, his mother calls: Everything that man has told you is a lie. I'm not mad... I need the police... Meet me at Heathrow. Caught between his parents, and unsure of who to believe or trust, Daniel becomes his mother's unwilling judge and jury as she tells him an urgent tale of secrets, of lies, of a crime and a conspiracy that implicates his own father.
Daniel's parents have retired to Sweden. Though he has deferred travelling from London to spend some time with them at their new place, he has no reason to believe anything is wrong until he receives a call from his father, Chris, to let him know his mother, Tilde, is unwell and has been admitted to a mental hospital. Then, a call from Tilde, adamant that everything Chris is saying is untrue. 'The Farm' is about Daniel's attempts to unravel his parents' stories, as he tries to work out who to believe.

By telling the story largely at Tilde's pace, the reader is subject to discovering the story at the same time as Daniel. It is a multi-layered tale which hints at hidden menace for much of the story, without admitting the alleged crime Tilde is agitated about. Largely set in remote Sweden, the setting is a formidable presence in the story. I found this book absorbing and engaging - a crime thriller unlike any I have read in recent times. 'The Farm' deserves the accolades that have been heaped upon it.

The Farm is a terrific psychological thriller in the vein of Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl and Alice LaPlante's Turn of Mind. In The Farm, Smith gives us two potentially unreliable narrators: Tilde, who is convinced that her husband and the other men in her community are embroiled in a terrible criminal conspiracy, and her son Daniel, who must decide whether his mother is psychotic or his father a villain.

The story unfolds in roughly alternating chapters, as Tilde presents her "evidence" to Daniel and Daniel assesses the meaning of that evidence. Much of Tilde's testimony is gleaned from her diary; this approach, reminiscent of Gone Girl, immediately sucks the reader in, exposing us to the clues as Tilde encountered them. Tilde is a sympathetic character from the moment she arrives on the page; she tells her story so calmly and logically that the reader, just as Tilde herself, feels drawn to the inescapable conclusion that something is indeed rotten in the state of Sweden. And yet . . . what happened to Tilde in the summer of 1963? Is her personal experience tainting her perception of recent events? That is the question Daniel, and the reader, must resolve.

Compared to the fully fleshed-out character Smith has created in Tilde, Daniel is rather flat. He himself acknowledges that he is "weak," but that weakness seems to be as much a failing on Smith's part. While I can appreciate Smith's desire to juxtapose Tilde's strength against Daniel's milder personality, I felt that the only purpose Daniel ultimately served was as a foil to his mother, making his sudden decision to undertake his own investigation hard to swallow. Nevertheless, what he discovers in Sweden provides an unexpected payoff and a satisfying conclusion. I highly recommend The Farm to psychological thriller fans.

I received a free copy of The Farm through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

THE FARM opens "Until that phone call it had been an ordinary day." In fact, until the phone call from his father, Daniel had been living a very prosaic life. Even his hidden relationship with Mark, his lover, was based in large part on Daniel's ability to avoid conflict and court serenity. But with the phone call, Daniel discovers that the even-keeled childhood he experienced was all a sham. He finds himself caught between his father's insistence that his mother is an escaped lunatic and his mother's insistence that his father is part of a criminal ring. Almost all the rest of the book is built upon a potentially unreliable narrative presented by Daniel's mother, as his father attempts to track Daniel and his mum down.

Since his mum and dad moved to rural Sweden, his mum's original home, Daniel has had little communication with them. This has served his parents well, as they have been withholding their financial straits from him, and it has served him well as he has not found a way to come out to his parents. Mum's return to Sweden brought back memories from her childhood and early adolescence there, however, and contemporary events have mirrored those memories. Has Mum gone mad because of the circumstances, or are her accusations of Dad's involvement in a conspiracy accurate? As the book progresses, Daniel (along with the reader) is unsure. However, Smith does a tremendous job of smoothly transitioning from confusion to clarity by the end of the book. None of this is done through sleight of hand; rather, the interstices in the stories both Mum and Dad tell leave space for the reality to shine through.

Smith brings to life a rough rural Sweden where trolls still make sense and men still have all the power. The woods seem almost alive, and it isn't beyond the realm of possibility that a family could provide for itself by farming, fishing, and hunting. In this setting, it's not hard to believe that the men would conspire to protect a dark secret or that a woman might go mad. Smith's scene setting makes the conflict that Daniel experiences, caught between his parents, entirely believable. The main characters are deeply and realistically complex. Some of the secondary characters, especially Daniel's lover Mark, are less well developed. But THE FARM is such a psychological thriller that living inside Mum's head, or Daniel's, is far more important than understanding the more ancillary characters.

I read this book in one sitting, and I think it might be hard to dip into and out of the narrative. THE FARM is a book that just begs the reader to keep going. The psychological narrative keeps one engaged, and the mostly short "chapters" propel the reader forward. Dinner waited, as I couldn't put the book down at the end.

This review first appeared at www.reviewingtheevidence.com.

Carpe Librum
Oh my goodness! I've been hanging out to read The Farm by Tom Rob Smith ever since I heard the premise:

Daniel's parents have retired to Sweden, and all seems well until he receives a call from his father.
"Your mother's not well. She's been imagining things - terrible, terrible things. She's had a psychotic breakdown, and has been committed to a mental hospital."

But then his mother rings to say: "I'm sure your father has spoken to you. Everything that man has told you is a lie. I'm not mad. I don't need a doctor. I need the police. I'm about to board a flight to London. Meet me at Heathrow." (Source: GoodReads).

Daniel then has to decide which of his parents to believe. I was instantly hooked by the premise, and instantly gripped by the plot as soon as I picked up the book.

In fact, there was so much tension in The Farm, that I actually exclaimed, out loud, twice! The first was when Daniel's Mum says the simple words: "I told him everything" and I instantly yelled out "NO!"

And the second was when it was clear Daniel had made his decision about which parent to believe (no spoilers though). Oh, and the ending too, so I guess that makes three out loud exclamations and luckily for me they all occurred at home.

The Farm is a mystery and psychological thriller, which is surprising given the content is not driven by action so much as learning the truth about what took place. The plot is tight and the tension is palpable, and I thoroughly enjoyed it and highly recommend it.

I was also pleased to learn the movie rights have been sold, hopefully it's not too long before we can watch The Farm on the big screen. Get it, read it now!

This was a very enjoyable book. I am not giving the review justice. I read it a month or so ago and am already foggy on the details. It was a quick read, and something I am glad to have given my time. The story structure was wonderful. I recommended the book to my mom and she devoured it just as quickly. It was a fun read, you won’t want to put down – at least I didn't.


Book trailer for The Farm the new novel from Tom Rob Smith--author of the phenomenal Child 44 trilogy