My enormous thanks to Emily Burns at Twenty7, an imprint of Bonnier Zaffre Publishing, for a copy of Tall Oaks by Chris Whitaker in return for an honest review. Tall Oaks was published on 8th September 2016 and is available for purchase in e-book and paperback here.
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 Review of Tall Oaks
Three year old Harry has been abducted and the Tall Oaks community will never be the same again as the search for him continues.
Difficult times recently mean I’m way behind with my reviews and I’m extremely late to the Tall Oaks party. However, it was certainly worth the wait.
I’m always sceptical of the publicity claims about debut novels and when Tall Oaks was proclaimed to be for fans of Twin Peaks and Fargo, both of which I loved, my initial reaction was ‘Yeah, right!’ How wrong could I be? Tall Oaks is indeed the perfect literary embodiment of quirkiness, humour and emotion in a dynamic and entertaining read. I thought it was brilliant.
Firstly, the iterative image of heat and pressure, that runs throughout the text, impressively builds to the climax so that the reader experiences the oppression and tension that so many of the characters endure. I thought Chris Whitaker’s writing style was masterful. The balance of longer paragraphs with utterly shocking short sentences gave an impact I won’t forget in a hurry. I found myself laughing aloud, gasping and even crying as I read.
There’s also quite a cinematic feeling to the narrative. Lots of sharp changes of scene with fabulous dialogue mean I can easily see Tall Oaks as a gripping television series.
I thought the characterisation was a triumph. I was surprised by some of the fabulously handled revelations about many of the people who inhabit the small American town of Tall Oaks. Teenager Manny, in particular, is sensational and he provides the perfect foil to some of the darker passages. Be warned, though, if you don’t like profanities, as Manny loves them! Every emotion, every obsession, every secret possible lurks beneath the characters of Chris Whitaker’s intense tapestry of life. I can’t think of a single person in Tall Oaks who didn’t add depth and enjoyment to the experience of reading the book – and it is an experience and not just an entertaining read. I’ve finished it feeling I know a little more about humanity as a result. Tall Oaks has everything – wit, empathy, mystery and a cast of people so real I feel I know each one in person.
There’s only one negative about reading Tall Oaks and that is that I feel my understanding of it probably hasn’t done it justice. I need to go back and read it again, looking for more clues and appreciating the wonderful quality of the writing still further. It’s a fantastic read and I feel privileged to have had the experience.
About Chris Whitaker
Chris Whitaker was born in London and spent ten years working as a financial trader in the city. When not writing he enjoys football, boxing, and anything else that distracts him from his wife and two young sons. Tall Oaks is his first novel.
You can find Chris on Twitter.