Book Review: The Man from Primrose Lane / Authors: James Renner / Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux / Release Date: Out Now (Hardback), January 17th (Paperback)
In this ambitious head-scratcher of a novel, the author of a best-selling true crime book is in a state of numbness after his wife's suicide. To get him out of the house, his publisher encourages him to investigate a local murder mystery. But wouldn't you know it, the police and FBI take one look at him and decide he's their prime suspect. Sucks to be a writer!
The first half does a very good job of channelling Stephen King, especially his writer-going-crazy story Secret Window, Secret Garden. (There's stuff about the creative process and the arrangement of the author's desk that will ring a bell with anyone who's read that particular novella.) The prose is rugged, the plot thickens compellingly as we learn that Neff isn't quite such a stand-up guy as he seems, and the present day storyline is intercut with a nuanced portrayal of his troubled marriage.
But then the head scratching starts, as the novel takes a sharp turn into sci-fi, becoming a yarn about time travel and parallel dimensions somewhat in the vein of the Tony Scott film Deja Vu. We're all for authors springing surprises, but in this case the transition is so abrupt it feels like you've been the victim of a bizarre binding error, with the first half of one book slapped onto the second half of another. Still, Renner's definitely a writer to watch.