Publisher: Bonnier Zaffre
Publication date: 8th September 2016
Tall Oaks is a small town that grows progressively smaller as the investigation of a missing child stalks the neighbourhood, relentlessly looking for information as to his whereabouts.
The sinister foundations of Tall Oaks are meticulously laid. But it’s as though I was eavesdropping on conversation exchanges rather than reading, catching snippets of events as they unfurled. I ‘listened in’ as the town remained stoic, and the shockwaves from the disappearance of a three year old boy ripple throughout the streets.
His mother walks the rocky road to self-destruction, blaming herself as she was the last witness to see her boy before he was gone. If only her disbelief hadn’t dulled her reactions after seeing the face of a clown on the baby monitor, as “Clown Face” was sitting in the child’s room looking right down the lens at her.
Casual police interviews of persons of interest reveal more than you could ever imagine – the façade of nice houses and the ‘let’s pretend we have a nice life’ attitudes hide the personal darkness behind the closed doors of the town’s diverse residents, which Jim, the local law enforcement, shines a light on during his investigation.
Everybody has a story: an affair, a history, the not quite belonging. ALL are brilliantly portrayed. There are a few characters who would ordinarily fly under the radar their entire lifetime, if it weren’t for recent events that is. Some are sweating it out more than others and not just because of the cloying heat. While Jim finds the good, the bad and the ugliness of their situations we see just how much of a troubled soul he is, fuelled by the lack of progress in the case and his unhealthy fixation with it.
On reflection to the desperation of a missing child, balance is restored occasionally as the story of a teenage profanity king progresses. He insists on wearing a ridiculously tight Fedora, even though it cuts the circulation off at his temples. Yes, Manny is a wannabe gangster trying to hustle Tall Oaks with his varied antics producing the most unexpected results. He has some cracking dialogue exchanges throughout and is quite the sensation among his peers.
Tall Oaks is an evolving tragedy with an uncompromising moody vibe and remarkable quick wit. Its sharp writing and snappy dialogue channel the undertow of deception to absolute perfection. If you asked me right now to name a book that would make an appearance in my top ten of 2016, without shadow of a doubt THIS would be one of them.
Make no mistake, it’s a THUMPINGLY good read.
Rating: 5/5 + (MORE if I could!)
(Much gratitude to the fabulous publisher for providing a copy of this book for which it is my great pleasure to provide this unbiased review.)
(Courtesy of Amazon UK)
For fans of Twin Peaks and The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair, this brilliant debut is dark yet hilarious, suspenseful but full of joy.
“I always know when a book has completely blown me away – as a reader, I want to weep because I’ve finished it and I will never again get to experience it for the first time, and as a writer, it makes me want to weep because I wish I had written it myself. THIS IS ONE OF THOSE BOOKS.”
Lisa Hall, author of the No.1 Bestseller Between You and Me.
When three-year-old Harry goes missing, the whole of America turns its attention to one small town.
Everyone is eager to help. Everyone is a suspect.
Desperate mother Jess, whose grief is driving her to extreme measures.
Newcomer Jared, with an easy charm and a string of broken hearts in his wake.
Photographer Jerry, who’s determined to break away from his controlling mother once and for all.
And, investigating them all, a police chief with a hidden obsession of his own . . .
In Chris Whitaker’s brilliant and original debut novel, missing persons, secret identities and dangerous lies abound in a town as idiosyncratic as its inhabitants.
(Courtesy of Amazon UK)
Chris Whitaker was born in London and spent ten years working as a financial trader in the city. When not writing he enjoys football, boxing, and anything else that distracts him from his wife and two young sons. Tall Oaks is his first novel.