By Tom Rob Smith
Reviewed by Graeme Aitken
Families hide many secrets from one another. Daniel has never confided to his parents that he is gay and it’s been easy enough to keep them in the dark, now that they no longer live in the same city. But it never occurs to Daniel that his parents might have secrets of their own and he is shocked when he learns they lost a lot of money in the GFC and are practically broke. That was why they moved to Sweden (his mother’s native country) – it was much cheaper than London. But after Daniel receives a series of frantic phone calls from first his father, and then his mother, it’s beginning to seem as though he knows nothing meaningful about his parents at all. His father claims his mother is suffering from delusions, is mentally unstable and needs to be institutionalised. His mother claims his father is embroiled in a complicated conspiracy involving dodgy property deals, sexual misconduct, and murder! Who should Daniel believe? As both parents fly to London to convince their son that their version of events is the truth, Daniel is also faced with the prospect of having to explain his live-in boyfriend to them.
Tom Rob Smith is best known for his Child 44 crime trilogy and his profile is set to soar in 2014 with the release of the Child 44 feature film adaptation starring Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace and Gary Oldman. Smith did gain a great deal of attention for Child 44 when it was first published as it was long-listed for the Man Booker Prize 2008. This was an almost unheard of feat for a crime novel.
The Farm is a compelling and very well-written crime novel, with the set-up being particularly inspired and intriguing. The Swedish background is also extremely well evoked and adds enormous atmosphere and depth to the narrative. Smith is actually the son of a Swedish mother, just like his main character, though he is also openly gay – something his character Daniel needs to work through, and he does, by the end of the novel.