Tom Rob Smith has dazzled many with his crime thriller Child 44, with a movie having been released April 2015, I cast my views to The Farm his Scandi-thriller that will bowl you over.
The Farm is a thriller surrounding the question of sanity, and the topic of suspicious secrecy. The setting is split between a small farm in an isolated part of Sweden, and the juxtaposing city of London as it is torn between sanity, insanity, peace and terror, however these binary oppositions spawn from, and in, unusual places.
The premise of this novel is centred on an aging couple moving back to a similar farm to which ‘Tilde’, the wife, resided when she was the young daughter of a Swedish honey maker. The story unfolds that Tilde believes in a conspiracy that is occurring in the area of Sweden which they are trying to call home. She becomes suspicious of everyone, taking body language and small changes in behaviour as evidence to the crimes committed, although, her husband and those she has met during her time in Sweden believe that she has lost her mind to paranoia and insanity. These conflicting arguments are placed upon Daniel, their son, in order for him to act as a judge, unravel the truth and to make the decision whether to send his mother to the police or an asylum. The crimes of the Swedish locals isn’t apparent for some time, as they are simply mentioned as ‘crimes’. Thus allowing us to follow the story with the same level of suspicion as the mother, who narrates the events to her son in detail that would have only been remembered by someone who feels constantly threatened.
Presenting us with a patriarchal society in the isolated, and seemingly sleepy, Scandinavian countryside we can expect clichés to rife, as so many have jumped on this bandwagon. However, the reader is firstly presented with the familiar before it is quickly snatched away, making the reader jump to several conclusion which are seemingly empty. With Smith being from the same origins as the protagonist Daniel, with a Swedish mother and English father, he paints the scenery of Sweden masterfully. His style is not always head on, as he describes the farm the silence of the farm:
‘like being at the bottom of the sea except instead of a rusted shipwreck there’s an ancient farmhouse’
These words are promoting both a surreal and silent piece, but also a suffocation and isolation. These descriptions allow us to immerse ourselves not only into the pastoral aspects of the novel, but also into the psyche of Tilde. What makes this ever-so-more interesting is the fact that we are only seeing these images through the story with Tilde is presenting to her son, therefore never being allowed to take anything which has been said as definite.
The most obvious conflict of truths is between Tilde and her husband, Chris. Tilde believes that Chris is involved with the alleged crime ring which she claims involves most of the male population in the area. This is where Daniel becomes an integral role in the novel, as he is character that not only allows the story to be voiced but also acts as an unbiased judge of his father’s capabilities, and his mother’s mental state. He remains in disbelieve throughout most of his mother’s story that his father would not act in such a manner, however his mother reveals several discrediting family secrets. Daniel thought that his parents rarely fought throughout his childhood and had a booming business, however his parents only protected him from conflict. Daniel always knew that his family has ‘a tradition of concealment’, however he did not realise it was to such an extent. This means that the reader can literally not trust any character’s judgement, as they all are either equally in the dark or possibly corrupted. Smith crafts shocking facts that are plucked out of an intricate story line, smacks you across the face with them and then will tell you that they were all a lie.
The only thing that establishes what is true or false, is Daniel’s own journey to Sweden. There he unravels what really happened, wishing to resolve the truth and shed all secrecy which his family has been hording for years.
Smith has created an intricate mystery that demands to be read, with twists which even the most seasoned thriller readers cannot expect this is a novel is one to put on your reading list.