Publisher: Bonnier Zaffre
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.
Desperate mother Jess, whose grief is driving her to extreme measures.
Newcomer Jared, with an easy charm and a string of broken hearts in his wake.
Photographer Jerry, who’s determined to break away from his controlling mother once and for all.
And, investigating them all, a police chief with a hidden obsession of his own . . .
In Chris Whitaker’s brilliant and original debut novel, missing persons, secret identities and dangerous lies abound in a town as idiosyncratic as its inhabitants.
My last read was a massive disappointment so I decided to pick up Tall Oaks after it had come highly recommended from both Annie at The Misstery and Renee at It’s Book Talk. I am so glad that they brought this gem of a book to my attention as it has a firm spot in my top reads of the year!
I’m sure we’ve all seen and read plenty of books that claim that everyone has secrets, then you read it and are left wondering, that was the big secret? The opposite happens here, everyone really does have a secret and they are all mind blowing and surprising. Three year old Harry has been missing for months and many residents of Tall Oaks are affected by his disappearance. Things like this just don’t happen in the town, which by the way, the town is a character in itself. I’m not sure if small town America has ever been portrayed so brilliantly before.
The characters in this book make it stand out above others. They are all complex, well developed and they make you feel something. You may love them, hate them, feel unsettled and uncomfortable by them, but you won’t forget them easily. Jessica is Harry’s mom and she’s been in a downward spiral ever since her son vanished. Jim is the chief of police and this is the case that will always haunt him. Jerry works at the local photo shop and he stole a piece of my heart. Jared is a mysterious outsider and his secret is a huge one. Then, my favorite was Manny. This kid was one of the best characters I’ve come across in quite awhile (and I read a lot, 243 books so far this year). He’s politically incorrect, and unapologetic about it, he has the mouth of a sailor, he’s crude, and most of what comes out of his mouth is for the shock value alone. But underneath all the false bravado he’s sensitive and smart. He is so funny, he fancies himself an old school gangster and tries to shake down local businesses. I had tears from laughing so hard, I don’t think I’ve ever been so tickled while reading a thriller before!
As much as the mystery plays a central role here, this is so much more than your typical thriller. It’s one of those books that makes you feel every emotion imaginable. It has appeal to any reader, there’s even a sweet romance developing between Manny and Furat for the YA crowd.
I don’t often feel compelled to reread a book but I really want to here. This really needs to be a movie, these characters deserve to be brought to life. I’ll miss every single one of them and will think of them often. The ending and beginning of this book was utterly perfect, it had one of the best opening chapters I’ve ever read. And the twists were unexpected and totally unpredictable. I can’t recommend this one enough and I can’t wait to read what Whitaker comes up with next.
Overall rating: 5/5