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.