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From Russian Violence to Swedish Madness

They decided to retire and relocate to the farm. To a tranquil natural environment in remote rural Sweden. Reminds of a typical horror plot seasoned with chopping axes, bloody floors and scattered body parts? Not this time. Tom Rob Smith builds up the suspense throwing the doubt to the each word told by the characters of the story. Because The Farm is based on unreliable storytellers.

Child 44, the novel about a KGB agent turned into a public enemy in Stalin‘s Russia just because he believed in a serial killer who brutally murdered children across the country and tried to catch him; the novel demonstrating the Stalin regime at its worst causing both an uncontrollable desire to shred the pages of this inhuman intolerable period in the global history as well as an eagerness to follow Leo through his dangerous runaway still hoping for a happy end, – has proven Tom Rob Smith as a master of crime thrillers. The story pulsated with raids, shootings, fights, betrayals and unexpected findings. No wonder it has turned into an action movie after all.

The Farm‘s terror is invisible. Actually, the reader doesn‘t even know, if there‘s a ground for a terror: is this just a typical Swedish farm or a menacing place a retired couple found themselves in? How do you draw a line between imagination and true facts, if both storytellers are the people you love most – your parents?

This is the situation Daniel gets himself in when he receives a worried call from his father that his mother has been admitted to the hospital because „she‘s been imagining things – terrible, terrible things.“ Before he checks-in into his flight to Sweden his mother is already greeting Daniel at Heathrow, explaining that doctors let her go, as there is nothing wrong with her – it‘s Daniel‘s father and his new friends that try to shut her up and lock in an asylum.

Tilde, Daniel‘s mother, has her own version of the events that took place on the farm right after their establishment there. Each moment of her truth is being approved by a piece of evidence Tilde brought with her. The whole narrative seems catchy but plausible, making it harder for Daniel to decide, which side he should stick to.

Conspiracy theory told by Tilde means that the neighbors around the farm are gathered into a kind of sinister congregation, now united to silence Tilde forever for digging out the truth about a missing girl. On the other hand, Daniel‘s father claims that Tilde is in an urgent need for mental treatment. And there‘s not a single clue, which story is a true one.

Though the story is tangled in obscurity, the novel is a speedy page-turner. Involved in solving the riddle, you can‘t stop till the very end, which reveals darker secrets of the past and explains an obvious connection to the present. There‘s always a skeleton in the closet ready to expose itself in the most unexpected way.

„If you refuse to believe me, I will no longer consider you my son…“ Ultimatum or not, it is Daniel who makes a decision. Firstly fully dependent on his parents and now – on his gay partner, he finally makes his independent step to find out the truth himself. His trip to the farm not only dispels the fantasies but also clears up the vision of himself.

Apart from Child 44 and other Tom Rob Smith‘s novels, The Farm has a parallel to the author‘s family, as he was also born into the family of an English father and a Swedish mother. Is there any other similar lines? I hope not.

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