Obsession can be Murder – ‘The Man From Primrose Lane’ by James Renner

primroseIf you like thrillers but generally find them derivative, then James Renner’s debut ‘The Man From Primrose Lane’ might just be the book for you. It’s takes a fresh and original direction for crime fiction, and is based on audacious premise. Unfortunately, to tell you why would give away an important part of the plot, but I will say this book is pure Michael Connelly cut with an eighth of Poul Andersen.

There are flaws, Renner is occasionally over-ambitious, with complexity and misdirection sometimes added for the sake of it. There is also an appearance of a metaphorical cat who threatens to derail the whole novel. This cat is attached to a story arc, that never quite makes sense, making for the least satisfactory thread of the novel. It is easy to overlook this since the rest of the book is so enjoyable.

Not since reading Connelly’s The Poet have I been so hard-wired into the plot of a novel. Investigative Journalist and best seller writer David Neff, is trying to solve the mysterious murder of The Man With a Thousand Mittens. The man, a recluse, was found bound, shot and fingerless, with his severed digits whisked in a nearby blender. As Neff investigates he finds links between this case and child abductions from the past. Then when evidence turns up implicating Neff in his own investigation, things really become interesting.

The plot to this novel is mind-bending. It soon becomes evident something very odd is happening, and discovering what is one of the most exciting literary experiences I’ve had in a while. Not everybody will like it. The novel’s premise is well conceived but preposterous. There are also so many layers and threads to the novel, that a few of them are dropped during the novel’s climax. I didn’t notice at the time of reading, but as I compose this review, a number of unresolved issues occur to me.

I’m more than happy to write off these dropped threads as the result of the gleeful exuberance of a début novelist. Renner has stuffed his first novel with more innovation than some crime writers manage in their entire careers. The Man from Primrose Lane my have its flaws but its still a diamond. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining read that should keep you captivated during the dark winter nights.

Many Thanks to the team at Corsair for providing me with a review copy of this book. 

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