The Man From Primrose Lane by James Renner

The Man From Primrose LaneThe author of this book, James Ren­ner, is a friend of mine.

Read­ing this book is like watch­ing a freight train bar­rel toward you and being unable to move, while remem­ber­ing a time in your past when you watched a freight train bar­rel toward you, only to wake up to find out there’s a freight train bar­rel­ing toward you.

This is the kind of nov­el that should appeal to any­one, and the ingre­di­ents it con­tains that aren’t to your taste should be more than made up for by the things that are. There are three acts with a few inter­ludes, and by the third act, I was so hooked that I read the last 100 pages in a sit­ting.

It is a deeply per­son­al, emo­tion­al­ly-charged mur­der mystery/thriller about an inves­tiga­tive journalist/writer and his search for a ser­i­al rapist & mur­der­er of lit­tle red­head­ed girls. Sor­ta. If Ray­mond Chan­dler had writ­ten it, that’s all it would be about. It’s also a nov­el about how inter­nal dark­ness cre­ates exter­nal demons. Par­tial­ly. If Stephen King had writ­ten it, that’s what it would be about. But James Ren­ner wrote this, so it’s about those things, and much more; obses­sion, redemp­tion, fate, phi­los­o­phy, futil­i­ty and hope in the face of it. There are also plen­ty of east­er eggs for folks who live in or are famil­iar with North­east Ohio.

This isn’t nor­mal­ly the kind of nov­el that I read, so it took me awhile to get in the groove with the intri­cate detail and char­ac­ter­i­za­tion sup­plied dur­ing the ini­tial expo­si­tion. I found myself won­der­ing if all this detail was tru­ly nec­es­sary (it is), then that ground­work starts pay­ing off over and over again. I had to keep putting the book down to calm down, such was the deeply per­son­al impact that the char­ac­ters actions have upon each oth­er. The struc­ture of the expo­si­tion places events that occur at very dif­fer­ent moments in the past and future con­cur­rent to each oth­er. This results in two things: 1) over­whelm­ing dra­mat­ic irony and 2) the nov­el becomes some­thing akin to time trav­el, ini­tial­ly sim­i­lar to the way that Gene Wolfe’s Peace is a time trav­el nov­el.

So if you want your heart-strings tuned, some exer­cise for your adren­al glands, your tear ducts flushed, your action packed and your food thought­ful, read this book.

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