Reviews provided by Syndetics
Library Journal Review
In Smith's (Child 44) latest, Daniel is left troubled and confused by two phone calls, a frantic one from his father followed shortly after by one from his mother. His father says Daniel's mother is mentally ill and has been committed to an asylum in the Swedish town to which they recently moved. While Daniel makes plans to leave London, his mother asks him to pick her up at Heathrow Airport, claiming she needs to talk to the police. From this point the story primarily becomes his mother's as she methodically relates the events that led her to believe the questionable behavior of her neighbors may be widespread and criminal. Two readers enhance the text; James Langton narrates Daniel and his father with understated urgency, and Suzanne Toren does a believable, breathless reading of Daniel's distraught mother. Verdict Readers who enjoy tales of family secrets hidden behind placid façades by such authors as Pat Conroy will appreciate this work. ["A worthy addition to the growing canon of Scandinavian crime thrillers," read the review of the Grand Central hc, LJ 6/1/14.]-Deb West, Gannon Univ. Lib., Erie, PA (c) Copyright 2015. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
Starred Review. Smith's startlingly original new novel is told from the perspective of Daniel, a Londoner whose parents, Chris and Tilde, have retired to a farm in the south of Sweden. The story begins as Daniel receives word from his father that his mother has been hospitalized after experiencing psychotic episodes. For months, Chris says, Tilde has been "imagining things-terrible, terrible things." Before Daniel can fly to Sweden to see her, his father calls again to say that Tilde has checked out of the hospital and disappeared. Soon after, she arrives at Daniel's door, emaciated and in obvious distress, claiming to have escaped from an asylum where Chris imprisoned her. In her ensuing tale, strikingly enacted by Toren, Tilde describes her nightmarish life on the farm, with Chris and a neighbor plotting against her. Langton convincingly renders Daniel with the voice of an educated, thoughtful young man, unable to decide whether his mother is telling the truth, or is delusional, as his father claims. Daniel, uncertain and perplexed, interrupts Tilde's story with questions that he hopes will bring out the truth. The conversation continues for much of the novel, with Toren contributing an unnerving, emotionally charged performance, and Langton reacting with questions that seemingly suggest an open mind on the part of Daniel, but that carry more than a hint of disbelief. Together, they transform Smith's brilliant prose into a mesmerizing two-character theatrical. A Grand Central hardcover. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Book Review
Mama's gone crazy, daddy's gone crazy, and Smith (Child 44, 2008) has skipped over from Stalin's Russia to the idyllic Swedish countryside for his latest thriller.The change of scene puts Smith squarely atop territory claimed by Stieg Larsson, Henning Mankell and other masters of Scandinavian mayhem. Smith, who has family ties to Sweden, works a customarily Nordic twist, too, by setting family members at one another's throatsand quite unnicely, too. A frantic email ("Nothing else, just my name, an exclamation mark") alerts Daniel to the fact that something is rotten across the North Sea, where Mum has been parked in a hospital while Dad mutters worriedly about her declining mental faculties. Ah, but Mum, who turns up in London, having fled, may not be loony at all. Indeed, she has a bag full of notes about Dad's late-blooming nefariousness: "In this satchel," she intones, "is some of the evidence I've collected over the summer." Evidence of what? Well, out among the cornflowers and hollyhocks, a corpse, maybe more than one, might just lie, for Dad has a kinky, hidden side. Meanwhile, Mum is old-school enough to believe that the fairy-tale world of trolls and goblins lies on the edge of the forest, though her hypotheses about the teenage girl who's gone missing from their bucolic farm town have an eminently practical side. Smith does creepy very well, setting scenes that slowly build in intensity, and he keeps readers guessing about who can and cannot be trusted. He also has a knack for finding the ominous in the picturesque, so a candlelight procession of "women dressed in bridal white" turns into a backdrop for a discovery that Daniel isn't quite prepared to make. And, it being Sweden, even bad guys and red herrings are neat, orderly and eminently polite: "It wasn't enough for Hkan to attack me," notes Daniel. "He wanted my permission to do so."They're resourcefully lethal as well. A satisfying mystery on ground that, though familiar, manages to yield surprises in Smith's skillful telling. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.