The Man From Primrose Lane by James Renner

Saturday, 26 November 2011

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.