Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Harmless by James Grainger

I'm not sure what the overlying theme of Harmless by fellow Canadian, James Grainger, is. I'm not one to read thrillers regularly--I read Gone Girl a few years ago and it was enough to veer me away from the genre for a while. I'm not always looking for "The Next Big Thing" in books, I'm one for subtlety. This book may have been the opposite of that.

In Harmless, a father and his teenage daughter leave Toronto for a weekend in the country to catch up with Joseph (dad's) old friends. Joseph is divorced and his relationship with his daughter Franny is not as good as he would like it to be. He seems to still be in love with his high-school sweetheart Jane, the host of the gathering. Joseph harbours some pretty overt feelings of resentment towards Jane's husband Alex. 

As would happen when most forty-somethings get together for a weekend, the group (minus Franny and the other kids) gets blind drunk and stoned.

Joseph and Jane decide to take a walk in the woods and have an extra-marital affair. Why the hell not?  It's not like they were surrounded by their friends and family or anything...

Joseph hears a twig snap nearby which brings everything to a grinding halt (no pun intended.) The two return to the house only to find out from Alex that their daughters, Franny and Rebecca, are missing.

Logically, Alex invites Joseph to go out into the woods with him to find the girls--armed, of course. They have conversations about killing abductors and taking the law into their own hands.

There are a few things in this book that I found a little bit difficult to read, but I think that's the point. No one really wants to get into topics like dead animals and there are several in this book. I may be a tad hypersensitive given my vegetarian lifestyle, but I don't think I'd be alone in thinking some of the graphic nature in the novel is a tad over-the-top.

Without question, there is a lot of violence in the book. The protagonist has a lot of penned up anger and frustration and he is given ample opportunity by the author to release it.

Even though Harmless wasn't really my thing, it is certainly a page-turner. I wanted to steamroll through it, if not only to see what wild immoral act would be perpetrated next. Let me tell you, there is plenty to go around!
As far as recommendations go, those that like violent, compelling thrillers would probably really enjoy Harmless. I wish I had more books to compare it to. As far as I can tell, it was good. It was very readable but I had absolutely zero empathy for Joseph. It's fun to root for the good (or not-so-good) guy and I didn't really care what happened to him.

I'll recommend it to some, how about that? I think that's fair.

Highly recommend to some.

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