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The Man from Primrose Lane: A Novel Hardcover – February 28, 2012
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A mind-bending, genre-twisting debut novel
In West Akron, Ohio, there lived a reclusive elderly man who always wore mittens, even in July. He had no friends and no family; all over town, he was known as the Man from Primrose Lane. And on a summer day, someone murdered him.
Fast-forward four years. David Neff, the bestselling author of a true-crime book about an Ohio serial killer, is a broken man after his wife's inexplicable suicide. When an unexpected visit from an old friend introduces him to the strange mystery of "the man with a thousand mittens," David decides to investigate. What he finds draws him back into a world he thought he had left behind forever. And the closer David gets to uncovering the true identity of the Man from Primrose Lane, the more he begins to understand the dangerous power of his own obsessions and how they may be connected to the deaths of both the old hermit and his beloved wife.
Deviously plotted and full of dark wit, James Renner's The Man from Primrose Lane is an audacious debut that boasts as many twists as a roller coaster. But beneath its turns, it's a spellbinding story about our obsessions: the dangerous sway they have over us and the fates of those we love.
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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.
- Publisher : Sarah Crichton Books; First Edition (February 28, 2012)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 384 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0374200955
- ISBN-13 : 978-0374200954
- Item Weight : 1.3 pounds
- Dimensions : 6.33 x 1.37 x 9.29 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #2,721,870 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from the United States
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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.
First and foremost, I feel like there should be a trigger warning for this book. This book contains discussions of pedophilia, child molestation, and rape. Sometimes in somewhat graphic detail. The MC is a journalist that gets famous for solving a true crime case involving a missing/murdered children. We meet pedophiles and listen to their exploits. While this isn't necessarily a huge part of the novel, if it isn't something you can stomach, maybe miss this book.
The writing is super accessible, it was easy to get through and was interesting enough to keep me turning the pages. I will say that the first half of the book and the second half of the book feel almost like 2 separate novels linked together by thin strands of logic and plot. I don't know whether that's a bad thing or not, but I do remember being in the middle of the book and laughing going "well this went from zero to 100 real fast!"
I feel like a lot of the sciency/sci-fi stuff could have been explained or delved into further... it kind of hits you all at once, you get a lot of random information that kind of comes out of nowhere and you're expected to just sort of roll with it. If you can do that, you'll probably enjoy this book enough to get to the end. I could have seen this being a duology or trilogy easily though strictly due to the sci-fi add-ins.
This book involves time travel. While I could see it coming before I got to the "big reveal", I felt like I needed way more than a 1 chapter description of how things turned out the way they did. Admittedly I do not enjoy time travel in a lot of books because it can be tricky to explain, but I genuinely felt like this concept in this novel was still in it's rough draft stages and could have been expanded upon further to make a more satisfying story.
All in all, it was an alright read. Something quick that occupied a day of my life. If you're into this sort of stuff, give it a whirl, I don't think it's a bad choice at all, and the writing alone was worth the experience.
Before I get down to business, let's all be honest with one another. Most of the books we read are of average or less quality and are just an entertaining way to pass the time. This book is not one of those. This one grabs you by the genitals and infects your thoughts while you aren't reading it.
The Man From Primrose Lane is one hell of a crazy read. The titular character is a local eccentric who was known as The Man with a Thousand Mittens to the cop who found his corpse, complete with fingers in a blender. In life, he was always seen wearing mittens and had a closet full of them when he died? Interested yet? What if I told you the MFPL had a painting of David's dead wife in his basement? Or that he has a notebook about another woman's daily habits that just happens to resemble David's wife?
This is one of those books that I cannot divulge the plot of without ruining it. Suffice to say, it is a cleverly written mind bender. Part detective story, part bat s*** crazy. Your brain might fold in on itself like a black hole before it's finished.
What the hell else can I say without spoiling things? I like how Renner uses David going through the withdrawals for his depression meds as a good way to reveal his back story using flashbacks. I had a feeling who The Man From Primrose Lane was about 30% into the story but I had no idea how complex things really were.
That's about all I'm prepared to reveal at this time. If you like genre-bending, thought provoking reads, you could do a lot worse than this. This is in the top two or three books I've read so far in 2016. Perfect score.
Top reviews from other countries
The story is a complex one of murder, relative times, perception and trying to change the future/past/present (delete as temporally applicable!), in which the characters are (somewhat inevitably) not what they appear to be. The book is well-written and (it turns out-see 'It Came From Ohio') well researched and weaves a story of variable believability but constant interest around the main story of a man accused of killing his wife. Not an uncommon premise in fiction, but not usually one that leads to time travel!
All in all an interesting concept executed well and it even manages to tie up (most) of the loose ends....
It isn't a conventional murder mystery at all, of course, and as increasingly odd things happen you start to wonder just what is going on. My edition carried the cover strapline "Love. Murder. Time Travel" which was a bit of a giveaway and so I'd worked out who the Man from Primrose Lane was before the big plot twist was actually revealed half-way though.
Nevertheless it's a good read, if a rather twistily many-layered complicated one at times, and you have to suspend a lot of disbelief. Particularly in the cat.
And then the author went off the rails...
I feel that the author was very self indulgent with this book. It really frustrated me the way no indication was given that this would be a sci-fi-esque novel. I felt very disgruntled, and robbed of a good story to be honest! I really lost track of what was happening. The pace was really off-putting for the rest of the book. Overall, so disappointed, but two stars because it had so much promise at the start...