For fans of Twin Peaks and The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair, this brilliant debut is dark yet hilarious, suspenseful and sad.
Everyone has a secret in Tall Oaks . . .
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.
Sometimes when a blurb says “Everyone is a suspect” I tend to think that’s highly unlikely and there often ends up being only about two suspects. In the case of Tall Oaks, the wonderful debut novel by Chris Whitaker, just about everyone actually is a suspect and that’s just how I like my mysteries! Time to put on my biggest detective hat and figure out what happened to three-year-old Harry…and what’s Jared..and Henrietta.. and Jerry (just to name a few) hiding? See…secrets.
The book is set in a small California town where everyone knows everyone and a crime like the kidnapping of a small child had previously been unheard of. Needless to say, the close knit town is rocked when three year old Harry is taken from his bed one night. His mother, Jessica, a single mom whose no good husband Michael had left her and Harry, is home at the time and what she sees on the baby monitor when Harry goes missing has left her a terrified, unstable basket case. Luckily, she has the support of Jim who’s not only the dogged police detective working tirelessly to find Harry, he’s also a friend from high school who, perhaps, would like to be more than friends.
The plot weaves between the downward spiral of Jessica, her hunt for Harry, and the happenings between many others in the small town. We meet Manny, a high schooler who, along with his friend Abe, wants to be the “gangsters” in town and plays the part accordingly with his language ,outfits and “shakedowns” of places like Pizza Hut. Too funny! I have to say, Manny steals the show in this book. He’s not your typical teenager by any means, I mean his language is atrocious (i.e. liberal use of the F word) and his goals include being a gangster, but Manny makes no excuses for himself, he loves his mom and his little sister and he’d do anything for them. And then he meets Furat and young love is in store for Manny:)
I’d love to go on and on about all the wonderful unique characters in this book but in the interests of keeping this review manageable I’ll give you a condensed lowdown. There’s Jerry who’s got a soul crushing mother and life, Henrietta, who’s married to Roger and let’s just say there’s something quite off about that marriage, Jared, the newcomer to town who’s definitely running from something…and that’s just a few of the characters you’ll get to know and question! I have to mention another of my very favorite characters…French John. He’s a baker in town and friends with Manny’s mom and I thought his character was extremely witty and funny. See, that’s the thing about this book. You would think that an author writing a mystery novel about a missing child couldn’t also write characters who were quirky, funny, and endearing and I admit to being skeptical about it myself but Chris Whitaker has done just that and done it in a way that’s true to the story. This book really is a ‘whodunit’ that’s at times sad, funny, and endearing.
As you can see, I really enjoyed this story. If there’s one critique I have it’s that within the chapters , perspectives change abruptly from one person to another with only a small space break and at first I had a hard time keeping the differing perspectives straight as there’s many characters and storylines introduced but after the first several chapters when we’ve met all the characters and gotten a feel for their storylines, I followed everything perfectly fine and didn’t notice the quick shifts anymore. As far as what happened to Harry, I thought I had put all my detective skills to use on this one and had it all figured out but it turns out I’m not as good as I thought I was at being a detective. Well done Chris Whitaker!
**Many thanks to Chris Whitaker, Twenty7 Books, and Netgalley for providing me a copy of this fantastic debut novel**
***This book is currently only available to purchase in the US through Amazon third party sellers. Let’s hope US rights get sold quickly so others here can enjoy this story!!***