The Farm by Tom Rob Smith (Grand Central, June 3rd, 2014-When Daniel’s parents, Tilde and Chris, moved from London to Sweden, Daniel believed that they were ending a long period of hard work, but work that was lucrative enough to afford them a comfortable semi retirement in a sprawling old farmhouse. It’s been three years since his parents left for Sweden and Daniel has been putting off a visit, but it’s not because he doesn’t want to see his parents. In fact, he loves his parents dearly, and only remembers a childhood filled with light and laughter. If his parents fought, he never saw it. So, in a shocking turn of events, he gets a call from his father, claiming his mother has been committed to a mental hospital. Shortly after that, his mother calls, informing him that she’s on a flight to England, having convinced the doctors at the hospital that she was of sound mind. She’s also sure that Daniel’s father is a part of a terrible conspiracy against her. What follows is a laying bare of secrets so shocking that Daniel is forced to rethink everything he ever thought he knew of his parents.
The Farm is Tom Rob Smith’s fourth novel and his first standalone after his Child 44 trilogy, and it’s a keeper. Tilde tells her story to Daniel using a series of items she’s collected as evidence and is determined to tell it in a logical, orderly way, even as Daniel struggles not to jump to conclusions and also to listen with an open mind. The story Tilde weaves, of a rural Swedish community harboring terrible secrets, is quietly horrifying, and there’s always a sense of urgency, as she’s terrified that Daniel’s father will find her and try to take her back to the hospital. What’s so fascinating about Daniel is that he’s been keeping a secret too. It’s nothing near as explosive as Tilde’s, but it does have some bearing on his acceptance of Tilde’s disturbing tale, as does his love for her and of course a will to see justice done. Tilde’s narrative is orderly, concise, and certainly not the expected chaotic ramblings of a disordered mind. Her suspicion’s point to a shocking crime, however, and the sense of dread that is woven throughout, along with Tilde’s very real feelings of isolation and persecution, make for a claustrophobic, tense read. Are these the intricate fantasies of an insane woman, or something much more sinister? Don’t worry, you’ll get answers, and you may even be surprised. The Farm is a clever, meticulously structured psychological thriller, and I marveled at Smith’s skill in painting such an effective portrait of isolation and mischief of the most devious sort, hiding behind a facade of “community”. Don’t miss this one, thriller fans.