Book Review: The Insect Farm, by Stuart Prebble

Publisher: Alma Books   |   Publication date:  15th March 2015

The Insect Farm My Review

The Insect Farm Kindle CoverConsidering I finished this book in just a few hours you can safely say I was absorbed by the McGuires’ story. It’s fascinatingly engineered, although I would say it’s more of an intriguing read than a thrilling one.

You will learn of the ending at the beginning. Yes, that’s right. The prologue states that the authorities have made a rather grim discovery on an allotment, a thought that hangs in the air with creeping suspense. This is the driving force throughout, as nothing is revealed until the bitter end and even then it’s not handed to you on a plate.

It’s up to Jonathan McGuire to narrate his family’s story. Only by traveling full circle through their lives until you revisit the gruesome destination again will you have an understanding of that initial opening scene.

Jonathan candidly shares the routines of his life and the relationship with his older brother, Roger, who has learning difficulties. To occupy Roger’s time their parents invest in an ant farm. The introduction of bug life to the garden shed leads to more and more exotic species arriving in the post to quench the thirst of this new hobby. Roger thrives on his new obsession for all things creepy-crawly, observing the behaviour of these creations in their human-controlled environment of which he is in sole charge. The topic of his insect farm allows Roger a rare time to shine, as he can hold court with complete strangers about environments and life cycles. Yet when he is away from The Insect Farm he retreats from the world again, back into a routine of marmite on toast before he sees his mate Terry on the bus for their daily art and craft activities.

While Roger is consumed by his brave new world, Jonathan leaves for Newcastle University. He gets married to Harriet and life seems good. That is, until his parents perish in a house fire and the authorities are unable to discover the cause of the blaze.

As Roger is now alone, Jonathan voluntarily returns from University leaving his wife to continue her studies, ever supportive of his new role as sole carer for his brother. The couple continue to have a long distance relationship but an unsettling jealousy, fuelled by the revelation of a noxious secret, risks upsetting the harmonious balance they all enjoy.

The story stealthily explores the unpredictable waves that can knock life off course. It’s a kind of fly-on-the-wall documentary of a close family unit occupying their own unique habitat, not dissimilar to the observations of an insect farm. The only difference being was Roger could intervene to control the residents of his world when they became unruly. He could easily rehouse, restock, and restore the equilibrium. If only life could be as simple as that…

Rating: 4/5

(My thanks to Alma Books for the copy of this book, which I was lucky enough to win in a generous giveaway they ran.)

The Insect Farm Draft Book Summary

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

A cleverly plotted mystery of love, jealousy and suspense, Stuart Prebble’s eagerly awaited new novel – The Insect Farm – will linger long in the mind of its readers. Brothers Jonathan and Roger Maguire each has an obsession. For Jonathan, it is his beautiful and talented girlfriend Harriet. For Roger, it is the elaborate universe he has constructed in a shed in their parents’ garden, populated by millions of tiny insects. But Roger lives in an impenetrable world of his own and, after the mysterious death of their parents, his brother Jonathan is forced to give up his studies to take care of him. This obligation forces Jonathan to live apart from Harriet — further fuelling his already jealous nature.

Their lives are abruptly shattered by a sudden and violent death, and Jonathan is drawn into a cat-and-mouse game with the police. Does Roger know more than he is letting on? A cleverly plotted mystery with a shock ending, The Insect Farm — Stuart Prebble’s awaited new novel — will linger long in the mind of its readers.


The Insect Farm Author Profile

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Stuart Prebble is a former television executive and CEO of the UK television network ITV. “The Insect Farm” is his first novel to be published in the United States. He is currently a producer and director at StoryVault Films. He lives in London.

THE INSECT FARM won the Polarlens prize for crime fiction, awarded by the jury in Lens, Pas-de-Calais.