Review: “The Farm,” Amy Cross

Pros: Nice concept and plot
Cons: Difficulty connecting with major characters; lack of chemistry
Rating: 3 out of 5

In Amy Cross’s The Farm, a man from Britain, John Ridley, impulsively buys a farm in Norway. He takes his daughter Paula with him, despite her strenuous objections (and the fact that neither of them speaks the language, nor have they ever farmed before). Paula quickly finds out that there’s a history of death and tragedy at the farm house, and she becomes focused on proving that ghosts exist–she wants to believe that her dead mother might come back to her in some form.

 

It doesn’t take long before Paula starts seeing and hearing things on the farm. When her father ends up in the hospital after a particularly bad ‘accident’, Paula finds that staying alone in the house is a frightening prospect, and she’s sure she has seen at least two of the three young girls who died on the farm decades ago. She enlists the aid of the nighttime snow plower, Sebastien, who also seems able to see ghosts. As we the readers switch back and forth between the various time periods the book covers, we learn more than the characters do about how those girls died. The man who supposedly killed them, Jonah Lund, is known for doing evil things at the behest of the voices in his head, and it’s all somehow linked back to the farm.

By poking around in unsafe places, Sebastian and Paula come to the conclusion that the leper hospital that used to be in town had nothing to do with actual leprosy–it covered up the unethical ‘treatments’ that were being used on people like Lund. The people treating him even used bait (a young woman they thought he’d feel compelled to kill) to see if their procedures had helped him or not. Back to Sebastian for a moment–I think I was supposed to be feeling a chemistry building between him and Paula. However, I never really connected emotionally to the two characters (especially Paula), so it was hard to feel that chemistry there.

As a side note, the voice in Lund’s head, and some of the things that happen, veer into graphic violence and sex. It seems appropriate to the story, but I know for some readers that’s a deal breaker, so I thought you should know.

There’s a cabal of powerful men from the community who meet and seem to make important decisions together, guiding the town and its people in whatever direction they think best–or rather, best for them.

I like the fact that some of the evil in this book is human, and ferreting out what happened to the three sisters becomes a fascinating mystery that touches on all sorts of evils, human and not.

This is a solidly good book, but didn’t grab hold of me the way I’d have liked.

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