Title: The Farm
Author: Tom Rob Smith
Published: Simon and Schuster February 2014
Status: Read from February 07 to 10, 2014 — I own a copy
“Promise that you’ll listen to everything I say with an open mind. All I ask for is an open mind. Promise me you’ll do that, that’s why I’ve come to you. Promise me!”
Daniel is shocked when his father rings in tears to announce his mother is sick, not physically ill but mentally, and he has been forced to admit her to a psychiatric hospital. Distraught, Daniel makes immediate plans to travel to Sweden where his parents now live, but before he can board the plane his mother arrives in London, clutching a battered satchel claiming that his father is conspiring against her. Demanding that Daniel listen, his mother begins to speak, asking Daniel to trust in her tale of secrets, lies, betrayal, corruption and perversion. Daniel doesn’t know who to believe, he can’t imagine either of his quiet, hard working, loving parents capable of deception but he has to know…just who is telling the truth?
The Farm is a psychological thriller where Smith unravels a finely crafted plot that examines the issues of trust, truth and betrayal. The story unfolds from the perspective of Daniel and Tilde, his mother, as she shares a tale with him, exposing her belief in a conspiracy that implicates the residents of a small Swedish community, and his father, in a shocking crime.
“I’m sure your father has spoken to you. Everything that man has told you is a lie. I’m not mad.”
Daniel has never had any reason to distrust either of his parents but as his mother speaks he realises he has been oblivious to his parents lives, underscored by his surprise at the financial crisis that forced his parents move to Sweden. With the awareness that both his parents are capable of lying to him, Daniel is torn, unable to conclusively determine who is telling the truth. While his mother’s story seems outlandish and his father appears genuinely distressed, the uncertainty nags at him and he decides the only way to determine the truth is to investigate his mother’s claims himself.
With consummate skill, Smith keeps the reader guessing, unable to completely dismiss, or fully believe in, Tilde’s conspiracy theory. The author fosters an atmosphere of unease and tension as the reader wonders whose side should they take, and what if it’s the wrong one? The plot is masterful and the characterisation well done, but I have to confess there was something about the author’s style that didn’t quite grab me, and I was unable to completely lose myself in the novel. Nevertheless, I did like The Farm, particularly admiring its original premise, and I would recommend it without hesitation.