Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Tall Oaks by Chris Whitaker Book Review


For fans of Twin Peaks and The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair, this brilliant debut is dark yet hilarious, suspenseful but full of joy.

"I always know when a book has completely blown me away - as a reader, I want to weep because I've finished it and I will never again get to experience it for the first time, and as a writer, it makes me want to weep because I wish I had written it myself. THIS IS ONE OF THOSE BOOKS."
Lisa Hall, author of the No.1 Bestseller Between You and Me

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.


Tall Oaks is an exceptional debut by Chris Whittaker that I found myself completely sucked into. I have never felt myself immersed by so many different characters in one book which gave the story a very Broadchurch feel but American style.

At the heart of Tall Oaks is the investigation into the disappearance of three-year-old Harry. The book opens with Harry’s mother describing how her son disappeared. The descriptions of the clown gave me chills.

In one moment, America turns its attention on this seemingly quiet, crime free neighbourhood. Jim, the detective investigating Harry’s disappearance, is desperate for a breakthrough in the case and to reunite Harry with his mother, Jess. How could such a thing have happened here? Is the person behind Harry’s disappearance one of them, someone who they see and talk to every day?

As well as the investigation into Harry’s disappearance, Tall Oaks focuses on a small, close knit community as they struggle to come to terms with what has happened in their neighbourhood and try to move on with their lives even though the person who took Harry is still at large. Chris Whittaker takes us inside their lives which he has woven intricately with excellent detail. Each person had their own well developed character and reading more about them and their lives kept me turning the pages.
One character who I think deserves a special mention is Manny, a teenager who is desperate to be known as a gangster. Manny had me in stitches throughout the book; I loved the dialogue in the scenes he took part in, particularly with his best friend Abe and mother, Elena. He was definitely one of my favourite characters from Tall Oaks.

There was one twist in Tall Oaks which particularly left me gasping. This was a real knock out moment but it makes so much sense when I look back on the story now. And then there was that killer ending, a final twist that I certainly didn’t see coming. Chris did a really clever job of weaving everything together in the end to a very neat and satisfying conclusion. I feel that I’m really going to miss all the characters in Tall Oaks and I know that I won’t be forgetting about them anytime soon.

I don’t want to say anything more about the plot as I don’t want to spoil the story for future readers, but I can’t recommend Tall Oaks highly enough, it’s one of the best books I’ve read this year. 

Publisher: Twenty7

Print length: 368 pages

Publication date: 8th September 2016

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