The Farm Review
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In 2008, author Tom Rob Smith released his debut novel, Child 44, a chilling tale of espionage in the Soviet Union in the 1950s (the movie version of which is scheduled for release later this year). Now that he’s completed his Child 44 trilogy, he’s moved from the Soviet Union to Sweden for The Farm, another haunting tale that’s loaded with intrigue and suspicion—but in a strikingly different way.

The story begins with an unexpected phone call to London, where Daniel lives with his partner, Mark. Since his parents, Chris and Tilde, decided to spend their retirement on a farm in his mother’s home country of Sweden, Daniel has put off his visit—mostly because he doesn’t want to tell them about Mark. But then he gets a call from his father, informing him that his mother has had a psychotic breakdown—that she’s been making horrible accusations—and, suddenly, everything changes.

As Daniel prepares to travel to Sweden, he gets another call—this time from his mother, who’s been released from the hospital and is on her way to London. Once she arrives, she produces a bag filled with what she claims is evidence supporting her accusations, and she proceeds to relate her story—carefully, and in great detail.

What follows is a gripping and often agonizingly suspenseful story—one that’s guaranteed to keep readers guessing until the end. Like Daniel, you’ll often want to skip ahead—to hear the conclusions first and the details later—but the story is told just as it should be. Though Tilde suggests that something horrible happened near their farm—something involving her husband, the man she loved and trusted for so many years—she refuses to say exactly what that thing is, insisting on starting from the beginning, gradually, carefully uncovering secrets and lies as she does. Even when she tells the rather mundane parts of the tale, however, there’s an underlying sense of urgency, with her desperation and fear—and maybe just a hint of madness—speeding the story along.

As she offers her account, though, you’ll realize that there’s a second mystery at play here, too. And while you’ll be eager to find out what happened on the farm, you’ll also wonder, along with Daniel, whether Tilde has really uncovered something nefarious—or whether she’s just extremely paranoid.

For that reason, The Farm is more than just the story of a woman who makes some disturbing discoveries as she struggles to adjust to her unfamiliar—and often unfriendly—new surroundings. It’s also the story of a young man whose entire world is shaken in just one day as he discovers troubling things about his parents and even himself. At the same time, he’s also called upon to be the judge his own mother’s sanity—to decide whether to help her or hand her over to more doctors. And it’s Daniel’s part of story that adds depth and drama to Tilde’s tale of the growing fear she felt during her months in Sweden.

It may not have the same breakneck pacing of a classic spy thriller, but The Farm is just as tense and gripping as Smith’s Child 44 trilogy. It’s carefully crafted and lovingly layered, offering readers an intriguing tale of secrets, suspense, and suspicion.

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