Great read: The Farm

By Juliet Rieden
Wednesday, January 22, 2014
Great read: The Farm

At the heart of this gripping thriller is the question, who do you believe in a desperate situation – your mother or your father?

The Farm by Tom Rob Smith, Simon & Schuster.

You can forgive author Tom Rob Smith for jumping on the Scandi-crime bandwagon – although he lives and was raised in London, his mum is Swedish and he spent his childhood holidays there.

What’s more, it’s clear from his writing that there’s a steady stream of that captivating cool blood coursing through his veins.

This exceptional psychological thriller starts in London, but the action takes place in rural Sweden, where a vision of bucolic bliss is shattered by a shocking tale, beautifully wrought by this emerging British crime writer.

Daniel, our protagonist, is the slightly ill-at-ease only child of Chris and Swedish-born Tilde, who in their autumn years decide to sell up their business in England and live out their retirement on a farm in a remote part of Sweden.

Tilde left the country when she was 16, but her son’s childhood was peppered with his mum’s sense of homeland, from folk tales to the language itself, so it seems fitting that she is reconnecting with her nation and introducing it to her beloved husband.

Yet, as the novel opens, Daniel is stopped in his tracks by a desperate phone call from his father, who for the first time in Daniel’s life is in tears, announcing incredulously that his wife has been sectioned.

As he prepares to fly to Sweden, Daniel answers another disturbed call, this time from his mum, who chillingly states, “Everything that man has told you is a lie. I’m not mad. I don’t need a doctor. I need the police ... Meet me at Heathrow.”

It’s a gripping start and as Tilde tries to convince her son that she is the one telling the truth and a terrible crime has been committed, we are eager to unlock this conspiracy of sinister secrets and lies.

The denouement contains some unexpected twists, but what really sings in Tom Rob Smith’s writing are his artful characterisation of Daniel and Tilde, both so recognizable you feel you already know them, and the vivid descriptions of the Swedish countryside.

The result is a tour de force that would adapt perfectly to the big screen, but should be read first for it’s delicious precision of language and ingenuity of storytelling.

About the author: Tom Rob Smith

Tom Rob Smith was 13 when he wrote his first thriller. His first serious attempt at fiction after he graduated from Cambridge University was rejected.

“I remember being very down,” he says. Yet his next attempt, Child 44, which took two years to complete, was picked up in a few weeks and long-listed for the Man Booker Prize. The Farm is fiction drawn from real events.

“At the heart of the novel is the idea of being forced to choose between your parents,” says Tom. His next project is a TV series – a modern, contemporary spy thriller, to be broadcast in 2015. 

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