'The Farm': Thriller puts new spin on family turmoil

Imagine receiving a call from your father alerting you that your mother is suffering from delusions. Now imagine the next call is from your mother who maintains your father is lying and that she is attempting to expose a great evil. Who would you believe? How would you decide?

That’s the setup for Tom Rob Smith’s new novel, “The Farm” (Grand Central Publishing, 352 pages, $26), a psychological thriller that finds Daniel — a young man in London who has been keeping his own secret — attempting to divine the truth of his mother’s tale of conspiracy and murder in the small Swedish farming community to which his parents have retired.

“The Farm” calls to mind Gillian Flynn’s runaway best-seller “Gone Girl,” in that it is built around a man and a woman who have different stories to tell about their troubled relationship. But Flynn’s couple is childless whereas Smith’s has an adult child to serve as arbiter and advocate. As Daniel’s mother spins out her narrative we share the son’s struggle to determine what to believe.

In the book’s final section, Smith brilliantly complicates the notion of a simple he said, she said story. Daniel, guilt-stricken, overcomes his general meekness and ineffectualness to journey to Sweden in search of answers. He discovers far more than he — or the reader — expects. Smith has penned a unique and powerful thriller grounded in the notion that the inner lives and secret histories of those closest to us often remain a mystery, and the heart of that mystery may be dark, indeed.

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