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The Farm    by Tom Rob Smith order for
by Tom Rob Smith
Order:  USA  Can
Grand Central, 2014 (2014)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Having read and thoroughly enjoyed Tom Rob Smith's Child 44 and The Secret Speech, I was expecting a mystery when I opened The Farm. But, though the story has plenty of puzzling elements, it's more of a contemporary read, a psychological drama, echoing elements of the author's own family life.

The protagonist, Daniel, lives in London, and has a partner, Mark, a successful corporate lawyer whose apartment he shares. While Mark is keen to take their relationship to the next level, Daniel is reluctant to let his parents know that he is gay. They had moved to Sweden early that year and settled on a farm there. Daniel's mum is Swedish, having left her country at age sixteen, and his father British.

Daniel seems to be cruising through life, but that all changes with a phone call from his father, telling him that his mother had been mentally unstable for months and has been committed to hospital. Daniel plans to fly to Sweden immediately - but then he hears from his Mum. She's flying to London and tells him that everything his father told him is a lie, that he had been 'led astray, manipulated in particular by one man - a villain.' Who should Daniel believe?

Once his mother arrives, she carefully doles out her memories of what has happened to get her to this point, and relates what she suspects has been going on with the powerful farmer who is their neighbor in Sweden and his adopted daughter Mia. It's all rather bizarre, and Daniel learns much about his parents (including the dire poverty that sent them to Sweden in the first place) of which he was unaware. That shocks him almost as much as his Mum's story.

So Daniel flies to Sweden himself to find the truth - and it's a shocking one, but he is finally able to help his mother. The Farm is a compelling read.

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