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The Man from Primrose Lane: A Novel Hardcover – February 28, 2012

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The Man from Primrose Lane: A Novel + It Came from Ohio: True Tales of the Weird, Wild, and Unexplained + The Serial Killer's Apprentice: And 12 Other True Stories of Cleveland's Most Intriguing Unsolved Crimes
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Sarah Crichton Books; First Edition edition (February 28, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374200955
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374200954
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.4 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,690,173 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


The Man from Primrose Lane is a well-told story filled with darkness, horror, humor and surprising tenderness. And that’s just the first part. There is a moment in this novel when the story moves in a way so unexpected I actually had to put it down and catch my breath. Go ahead, see what I mean. I’ll wait here for you.” —Charles Yu, author of How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe


The Man from Primrose Lane is one of those novels that will leave you torn: you’ll want to read it slowly, in order to savor every scene, but you’ll feel compelled to rush through the pages to discover what happens next. With uncommon skill and intelligence, James Renner weaves an intricate story of murder, abduction, and obsessive love. An incredible achievement—beautifully written and dazzlingly plotted, full of well-drawn characters and unexpected twists.” —Harry Dolan, author of Bad Things Happen and Very Bad Men


The Man from Primrose Lane is a haunting, wickedly clever book. Part Dennis Lehane and part Murakami, the twist of H. P. Lovecraft mixed in gives it a taste like no other. James Renner starts off his fiction career with a bang.” —Jonathan Carroll, author of The Ghost in Love

“Set in the near future, this ambitious, genre-bending debut novel from investigative reporter Renner (Amy: My Search for Her Killer) opens with the brutal torture and killing of an elderly hermit, known as “the Man with a Thousand Mittens” (because he wore mittens in the summer), in West Akron, Ohio, and passes through the agonized aftermath of the presumed suicide of the beloved and troubled wife of bestselling true-crime journalist David Neff, who’s charged with the hermit’s murder. David, obsessed with finding the real killer and saving his four-year-old son from his worst fear, that the boy will grow up to be just like himself, painfully sets about clearing himself of the murder charge. He becomes involved with scientist Victor Tesla, whose time-travel vehicle takes multiple Davids on dizzying hunts for alternative-time child abusers, rapists, and homicidal maniacs. Punctuated by moments of desperate tenderness, this unusually demanding and grim tale provokes troubling reflections on guilt and innocence, good and evil, revenge and redemption.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Fully fleshed characters . . . vividly rendered. Renner’s feints toward horror add quirky interest . . . those who [make the leap] will be well-rewarded.” —Booklist

About the Author

James Renner is the author of two books of nonfiction that detail his adventures in investigative journalism: Amy: My Search for Her Killer and The Serial Killer’s Apprentice. His work has been featured in Best American Crime Reporting and Best Creative Nonfiction. He lives in Ohio.

More About the Author

James Renner spends his spare time hunting serial killers and writing about his misadventures. His true crime stories have been published in the Best American Crime Reporting and Best Creative Nonfiction anthologies.

Sometimes he pretends to smoke cigarettes because he wants to feel relaxed but is too afraid of the harmful effects to actually smoke.

His debut novel, The Man from Primrose Lane, was published by Sarah Crichton Books in March, 2012.

He lives in Akron, Ohio.

Customer Reviews

I love a good mystery, but I am not much of a science fiction reader.
The first half of this book was engrossing and then it seemed to go off into several strange and confusing directions.
April J. Rosenthal
I knew at that point I wanted to take my time with this book and appreciate it for everything that it was.
Amazon Customer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Marcie on March 8, 2012
Format: Hardcover
The Man From Primrose Lane by James Renner starts off with the gruesome murder of a recluse that had the odd habit of always wearing mittens. For years after the murder, David Neff, author of a best selling true-crime book, is asked to look into the man from Primrose Lane's mysterious death. Neff agrees and then the mystery begins to unfold. Neff is aghast to find that his deceased wife is somehow mixed up in the murder. Furthermore the clues are leading back to the horrific case he thought was closed years ago. Neff is driven by obsession, determination and compulsion to put all the pieces together before it's too late.
The Man From Primrose Lane is a hauntingly good read. The story consists of a few disturbing details, such as the crimes of pedophiles and murderers, that are at times hard to read but it also makes the story line more dramatic. Renner doesn't go into too much detail concerning these crimes but enough to make your skin crawl. The story is told through flashbacks and real time. This method adds to building suspense in the novel.
This is definitely one of the more interesting books I've read in some time. The ending wasn't at all as I expected. It has a twist that will leave your mind whirling. Renner will leave you speculating and gauging not only how the book would end but also as to who the real criminal in this book is. The Man From Primrose Lane is more for older audiences.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Luan Gaines HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 28, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Renner's novel begins with murder in Akron, Ohio, the inexplicable and brutal death of the "Man from Primrose Lane" (a/k/a the "Man with a Thousand Mittens"), a reclusive whose identity proves impossible to ascertain, a hint that Renner's tale is, in fact, as intricate as a medieval maze, where true evil collides with its opposite force and a writer's obsession draws him into a cycle of memory and experience far beyond his imagination. When his publisher suggests David Neff write about the mysterious "Man from Primrose Lane", the widower is reluctant, mired in despair since his wife's suicide, medicated for PTSD since his true crime bestseller, The Serial Killer's Protégé, and dedicated to raising his four-year-old son, Tanner. Renner is in the business of seduction. As surely as Neff is helpless to resist rummaging in a box of material about convicted serial killer Ronil Brune, Renner draws the curious reader into a complex tale of murder, obsession and possibility, an emotional minefield where monsters coexist with a scientific study of the hibernation cycle of the cicada, innocent young girls are targeted for kidnapping and the identity of a recluse holds the key to it all.

Renner's chapters are as precisely orchestrated as a card sharp dealing hope to a gambler, each hand ratcheting up the tension, the stakes too high to lose, from the history of the enigmatic "Man from Primrose Lane" to David's love for the secretive, moody Elizabeth, from his fascination with Brune's crimes to nearly-crippling fragments of recurring memories.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By perook on May 30, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Having read a very glowing review of this book in the magazine section of our newspaper, I was keen to buy it and get reading. A promising start, perhaps, but oh what a jumble the layout was - a pack of cards flung into the air and allowed to fall and then gathered at random is an analogy of the sequencing of this book. Just when I thought I had a feel for where the story was at, off it would go on a different track - it was pure tedium looking back to see what I had missed and never finding out what it meant. None of the characters were developed to the point where I felt involved with them and I was tempted to abandon the book several times. However I continued till the end through the ridiculous time travel nonsense that put the lid on the coffin for me. All in all. very disappointing, a real let-down.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Schvice on January 1, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It was an interesting book with an unusual twist that went just a little overboard. I liked it quite a bit, but didn't love it.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Taylor Miles on February 13, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Oh where to begin? You may see many negative review on this book. Do not place much stock in them. The book is very... shall we say, different? Yes. Its very different. You MUST know going into it that is is a "genre-bender". Its a mystery/crime novel with a touch of science fiction and a tiny tinge of horror. For me, that is a superb combination. I enjoyed the melding of genres.

The story follows David Neff, a reporter turned true crime writer who has taken an extended leave of absence from writing after his wife's suicide. He spends all his time raising their four year old child until one day he is captivated by the story of a murder of an old hermit like man whose identity is a mystery. The victim had a penchant for mittens -- he always wore them no matter what the weather, and he always wore a different pair. Quite the eccentric. Neff is drug out of his mourning and thrust into the investigation of this odd murder. What ensues is both unpredictable and totally mezmerizing.

The writing style (which is paramount in my judgement of any book) was captivating. The author tells the story in three parts with two interludes. The interludes were very interesting, but totally bizarre. They do, however tie back into the story by the end.

The story unfolds quite quickly, and drew me in from the first page. I read it in a whirlwind of two days, and was left wanting more. It was a challenging read in that it will force the reader to follow odd avenues and arrive at odd conclusions. It is NOT something that can be predicted, and as such always surprises the reader. And finally, for those reviewers who have disliked the book for its genre twisting or at times unbelievable plot, just remember that that's what fiction is. It requires the complete suspension of disbelief.
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