Book Review – Under Rand Farm by L. J. Denholm


Let’s just jump straight into it, eh? Under Rand Farm begins with a girl returning home one night. But she never makes it home. She’s suddenly bundled into the back of a strangers van and taken to a creepy basement where she fears the worst.

Pretty brutal stuff. The tension gripped me immediately. Having read the synopsis I wasn’t expecting this intro and it served well to grab me by the throat, warning me I was in for a tough ride (in a good way, of course).

We’re then treated to the goings on of the Rand family. Long story short; a Mr Rand inherits this farm, changes its name to Rand Farm, and subsequently passes its legacy on to future generations. But there’s something strange with this place. Does it posses a malevolent power over its owners, forcing them to do terrible things?

Well, kind of. The generations of Rands are certainly – what’s the word? – that’s it, bastards.

This part of the story does fly by pretty fast, intentionally so. It’s almost like ‘quick, here’s the backstory of the farm, now lets’s get on to the guts of the story’, if you will. It’s not that I had a problem with this per se, but if the history of the farm and family running it had been fleshed out a little, it would have certainly have left more of its mark on me, should I say.

The main character in the story is Sullivan Rand, son of Jack. Jack was abused by his father although he keeps all of this to himself, and especially the details of the demise of his abusive dad. As a child Sullivan behaves strangely, he has a thirst for animal blood and suffering, his parents becoming more than a little concerned.

As Sullivan grows up his father becomes more like his dad than he’d like to admit. The drinking starts, the controlling nature rears its head and life evolves to be more and more difficult for Sullivan and his long suffering mother.

As a child growing up Sullivan does some awful things to those close to him and I certainly didn’t find myself rooting for him. As Jack becomes more of a downright arsehole to his family, my sympathies grew. But you can’t really ever be sympathetic to a guy like our Sully.

One Christmas Sullivan receives a book about a cute cartoon snake named Simon. Before long this snake begins to speak to Sullivan, encouraging him to perform his acts of carnage. Some of the things he does are terrible, but executed really well and although I wasn’t on his side, the book had me.

As Sullivan becomes a man he matures into an even worse version of his father. All this time Simon the snake is there in the back of his mind egging him on. This book carries a real darkness to it, with animal cruelty and abusive family lives driving the narrative.

The final act is delivered really well and of course I won’t say what that is, but it was certainly tense. However, it did kind of finish really abruptly. I wished there was more of a rising crescendo to the action instead of ‘bang’, it’s all over. A longer finale would have been much preferable to me.

But I’m nitpicking. Overall I had a good time with this one, although I would have preferred the farm to play more of a part, to be a character like haunted houses can be in their genre, if you know what I mean. Was the farm an evil entity that took its hold on those who lived there? Perhaps, but I never really got that impression.

If you fancy a bleak old tale, reading about a dude that is certainly unhinged, then look no further. But it’s probably best you don’t read this if you live on a farm. Or have a kids book about a talking snake.

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2 replies

  1. It sounds gruesome, and THEN add a talking snake? Yikes! (Awesome.)

    Liked by 1 person

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