The Farm, by Tom Rob Smith

17557913When one parent accuses the other of being mentally ill and dangerous and the other parent counter-accuses that the first is up to something terrible, which parent should you believe? This is the dilemma Daniel faces within the first pages of Tom Rob Smith’s The Farm. He receives a call as he’s walking home from the grocery store from his father in Sweden. Only a few months before, Daniel’s parents had retired to a farm in Sweden. Daniel’s father, Chris, simply says that Tilde, Daniel’s mother, is sick and that she’s in a hospital in Sweden. When pressed, Chris explains that Tilde believes that there are terrible things happening in their remote corner of southern Sweden. Daniel immediately books a flight to Gothenburg, the nearest city, when his father calls him back to tell him that Tilde is on her way to see him in London.

Daniel isn’t sure what to expect when he sees Tilde again. He’s shocked when he sees her disheveled, thin, unhealthy figure at Heathrow. Tilde makes him promise to keep an open mind as she tells Daniel about what’s happened in Sweden. With no other alternative, Daniel takes his mother to the apartment he shares with his boyfriend, Mark. Tilde insists on sticking to her chronology. She won’t tell him what happened until he sees all her evidence. Most of the book is taken up with Tilde’s narrative. She tells Daniel about her unpleasant neighbor, Håkan, who she thinks has been setting her up to isolate her and bully her into giving up her new farm. She meets the hermit who lives surrounded by Håkan’s fields. She forms a bond with Håkan’s adopted daughter, Mia. There’s something wrong about Mia and Håkan’s relationship, but no one will talk to Tilde. Chris makes friends with Håkan, so Tilde begins to feel increasingly isolated. Then Mia goes missing. When Chris talks Tilde into seeing Dr. Norling, a psychologisy, Tilde fears Chris and Håkan are trying to have her committed.

Chris arrives in London the same day, in the company of Dr. Norling, causing Daniel and Tilde to flee to a place they can finish talking. Daniel is caught between his two parents and his memories of an idyllic childhood in which his parents didn’t so much as raise their voices to one another. As Tilde reveals the extent of her debt and her suspicions about Chris, the scales begin to fall from Daniel’s eyes.

It’s not so simple for a reader to decide who to believe, either. Both parents are not the most reliable people. Chris is at his wits end. Tilde swears something truly awful is happening and that she’s caught in the middle of a criminal conspiracy. When given an unreliable narrator, I usually find the truth of what happened somewhere in the middle. When you have more than one unreliable narrator, it’s a crap shoot. Smith does eventually reveal what happened, it comes as a skillful, unexpected twist. The Farm is a thrilling combination of mystery and psychological thriller.

I received a free copy of this ebook to review from NetGalley, in exchange for a fair review. It will be released 3 June 2014.

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