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3.5 out of 5 stars38
3.5 out of 5 stars
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 6 January 2013
Now this a book that warrants serious attention from readers and critics alike. James Renner's debut `The Man From Primrose Lane' is marked by it's refusal to conform to the normal boundaries of the crime fiction writing genre, and instead plays with the conventions of a linear story, imaginatively taking the reader in a whole new direction. Over the last few years it has not been unusual for renowned fantasy writers such as China Mieville and Tad Williams to circumvent the constraints of their genre by presenting their readers with a crime fiction plot in a fantasy setting, but only after having established their reputations in their chosen genre. With a controlled use of plotting, and having established what appears to be a normal linear crime story, Renner bravely takes the reader into a fantastical flight into the realms of SF and fantasy, whilst never losing sight of the demands of the conventional crime reader, with an assured and utterly engaging touch.

At the start of the book a reclusive old man is found murdered in his home on Primrose Lane in Akron, with no apparent reason for this senseless crime. However, in the eyes of those faceless govenment departments who document our lives in minute detail, he is quite evidently not who appears to be, having assumed the identity of a long dead individual and mysteriously accruing a substantial personal fortune, seemingly only having spent money on a huge collection of mittens and other bizarre and apparently useless items. His killer remains undetected. Grieving widower and true crime writer, David Neff, is approached by his agent to take up the threads of this story, having successfully exposed a heinous miscarriage of justice in his previous bestselling book, and to uncover the secrets and lies that underpin the mysterious death of the anonymous man from Primrose Lane. Neff, is a great character, exhibiting all the signs of a man disappearing into despair following the alleged suicide of his wife, Elizabeth, but bound by his paternal responsibilities to his young son Tanner. We observe a man trying to make sense of what appears to him to be a nonsensical chain of events, put into motion by the loss of his mercurial wife, and how her death and the murder of the old man are so inextricably linked, as strange events and crossed paths, come to light in his reasearch for his new book...

And this is where the story takes the most mysterious of turns, but by my previous reference to the SF and fantasy genres, there is some small clue to the bizarre and intriguing adventure, across different dimensions of time, that you as a reader will encounter with this book. I was wrongfooted completely by the strange turn of events, having read a proof copy with little in the way of blurb contained within, but this for me certainly, made for a multi-stranded and at times complicated tale. I would certainly recommend that this is not a book to be picked up for a few pages before entering the Land of Nod, as it does require that attention be paid on the part of the reader to navigate the later stages of the book, but I would hasten to say that it doesn't make the book a difficult read per se but more that you will enjoy the cleverness of it more by keeping your wits about you. Supported by a host of surprising and compelling characters the plot mushrooms into abduction, murder and a thirst for justice amongst the main protagonists. I think the strength of characterisation throughout, particularly good in the female characters of Elizabeth and Katy and that of main protagonist David, provides a good foil to the unexpected twists and turns in the plot,that cheekily court more than one suspension of belief on the part of the reader. But you know what- Renner gets away with it. The writing is compelling, veering at times closer to contemporary literary American fiction, whilst maintaining a good conventional murder plot to carry the action along. `The Man From Primrose Lane' tests your imagination from start to finish and this makes it all the more special for that. A wonderful read with an ending that may tempt you to turn back to the beginning to decipher the clever myriad of clues that lie within its pages.
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If you like thrillers but generally find them derivative, then James Renner's debut 'The Man From Primrose Lane' might just be the book for you. It's takes a fresh and original direction for crime fiction, and is based on audacious premise. Unfortunately, to tell you why would give away an important part of the plot, but I will say this book is pure Michael Connelly cut with an eighth of Poul Andersen.

There are flaws, Renner is occasionally over-ambitious, with complexity and misdirection sometimes added for the sake of it. There is also an appearance of a metaphorical cat who threatens to derail the whole novel. This cat is attached to a story arc, that never quite makes sense, making for the least satisfactory thread of the novel. It is easy to overlook this since the rest of the book is so enjoyable.

Not since reading The Poet have I been so hard-wired into the plot of a novel. Investigative Journalist and best seller writer David Neff, is trying to solve the mysterious murder of The Man With a Thousand Mittens. The man, a recluse, was found bound, shot and fingerless, with his severed digits whisked in a nearby blender. As Neff investigates he finds links between this case and child abductions from the past. Then when evidence turns up implicating Neff in his own investigation, things really become interesting.

The plot to this novel is mind-bending. It soon becomes evident something very odd is happening, and discovering what is one of the most exciting literary experiences I've had in a while. Not everybody will like it. The novel's premise is well conceived but preposterous. There are also so many layers and threads to the novel, that a few of them are dropped during the novel's climax. I didn't notice at the time of reading, but as I compose this review, a number of unresolved issues occur to me.

I'm more than happy to write off these dropped threads as the result of the gleeful exuberance of a début novelist. Renner has stuffed his first novel with more innovation than some crime writers manage in their entire careers. The Man from Primrose Lane my have its flaws but its still a diamond. It's a thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining read that should keep you captivated during the dark winter nights.
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on 19 January 2013
No one really knew the Man from Primrose Lane. Tom Sackett always called him the Man with a Thousand Mittens because each time he left the house he appeared to be wearing a different pair. When he is found brutally murdered, the police try to track down his family only to find he was using a fake identity. With the investigation at a standstill, true crime writer and widower David Neff is approached by his publisher to write a book about the man and perhaps uncover the truth. But soon David becomes embroiled in a plot that he could never have dreamt up in his wildest dreams.

What starts out as an intriguing crime story soon pans out into something more which will keep your brain going round in circles. David is a single father and still hasn't quite got over the suicide of his wife 4 years earlier, who we find out about through flashbacks. He has made enough money from his first book never to work again so he is reluctant to get involved with the Man From Primrose Lane story.

The man had been obsessed with a young woman, Katy. He had paintings of her and journals of her life. Katy had never met the man before and everyone assumes it was a case of stalking. But Katy reminds David so much of his late wife and then Elizabeth's fingerprints are discovered on the bed at Primrose Lane. There is a lot going on in this novel but all the threads eventually come together; without giving too much away it's a wonderful fusion of crime and science fiction.

I'm starting to instinctively dislike the trend of making main characters authors in novels, especially making them out to be unrealistically successful. Here it seems making David so rich from his writing was a convenient way for him not to have to worry about having him go to work or worry about how to raise his son. There are also a few too many moments given over to things-that-successful-authors do; dealing with Facebook fans, signing books, literary snobbery; really things that have nothing to do with the otherwise interesting and complicated plot. The Man From Primrose Lane feels like it wants to be Stephen King at times which is only reinforced by the protagonist's profession.

There are some bits that just seem a bit silly and out of place. For anyone else that has read it; what was going on with that cat? Even if the science-fiction element was far-fetched, it works in a fictional capacity but adding supernatural elements without context was odd. The best bits are definitely the aspects that would be considered spoilers, so you'll just have to read it to find out.

Review copy provided by publisher.
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on 16 June 2013
why do so many authors try to cram all their ideas into one book,
this starts off really well, but about half way through degenerates into total nonsense, a great crime thriller idea runined by soem crazy Sci Fi idea....
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on 8 February 2013
This starts as a fairly conventional-seeming murder mystery.... old recluse found dead, local writer tries to find out whodunnit, writer is grieving for dead wife, has small son, meets a new girl, and he's still trying to work out who killed the old bloke.

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.
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on 21 August 2013
I was so disappointed with this book. Initially I thought it was excellent, exactly my type of read.
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...
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on 5 January 2014
James Renner is the author of two nonfiction books, Amy My Search for Her Killer and The Serial Killer's Apprentice. His work has been featured in Best Americian Crime Reporting.
The Man From Primrose lane is James first fiction book. The prologue The Man From Primrose Lane in Akron is an old man who had no friends or family who is found murdered. He had always been called the Man with a Thousand Mittens because he alway wore mittens he even wore mittens in the middle of July. People had given him the names of being odd or a hermit, recluse, or weirdo. David Neff who is an author who has been lonely since his wife committed suicied decided to investigate the mystery death of the old man. I do not want to give too much away as lot happens in this wonderful crime, thriller science fiction novel for readers to explore. I hope many readers enjoy The Man From Primrose Lane. Review by
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on 27 October 2013
Other reviews have criticised this book for switching genres and OK, there is a bit of that, but I'd say that it adds to the effect, rather than detracting from it.

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....
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on 5 January 2015
A refreshing and original novel - I didn't expect the ride this book took me on. It starts uneventfully enough and almost seems as though it might be a well written but reasonably bland piece of genre fiction. I'd advise readers to keep going if it isn't initally to their tastes - It is the build-up to a skillfully constructed cosmic riddle.

There are hints not everything is as it seems. Without the odd surreal or vaguely supernatural hint the flip would seem a bit cheap (finishing a whodunnit by bending the laws of everyday reality would have otherwise been a bit of a cop-out). This is not just a crime novel though, it is a novel about crime, about those that dedicate their lives to attempting to understanding crimes.

I'll say no more other than read it. I'd hate to give the game away.
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on 14 May 2014
Being a huge sci-fi fan, and also a fan of crime thrillers, this book had everything! It starts off as a normal crime novel and the sci-fi twist doesn't come until the last third of the book but from there in, everything starts to fall into place and make sense. The end is something special I think and had me on the edge of my seat, all the way into the epilogue.

The only slight negative is at the start of the last third, a lot of physics is sort of thrown at you in one go but I think it's necessary and and with a little thought makes sense.

I'd highly reccomend this for anyone who's a fan of time-travel, or the different theories surrounding paradoxes, multi-verses and a good old fashioned who-dunnit!
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