Initially, L. J. Hurst worked in the backrooms of the media industry. He now divides his time between work for an international scientific publisher and a rather more British independent bookseller. In years past he was a regular attendee at the Shots on the Page Festivals from whence Shots Mag sprung
“Love. Murder. Time Travel” it says on the cover of this Corsair paperback (by the way, don’t worry if you don’t recognise the name Corsair: it is a Constable imprint), and as I read on I recognised the love and the murder – and mystery – but time travel did not seem to appear in this tale (or tales) of a strange death in the Ohio woods and its investigation by a retired journalist with a dead wife and living son. Other complications seemed involved enough, especially when protagonist David Neff was arrested for the murder he had been persuaded to investigate, and found it doubled when he was then accused of having murdered the mother of his son, as well.
On the other hand how do you explain an old man who never left his cabin having a photographic record of a young woman’s life, as if he had been her stalker from birth? Though David Neff has been able to explain many strange things – he is retired on the royalties of his book that exposed a botched investigation that allowed a serial killer to go free – he finds that explanation of the hermit’s existence more difficult, until revelations seem to expose his life as not being the one that seems so obvious in Chapter One. Though this book is told in the third person perhaps the narrator is unreliable, or too reliant on what David thinks has happened. Perhaps the police are right to suspect him. On the other hand, they do not know about the time travel, nor its failures and paradoxes. They also seem unaware (but then so does David Neff) of how cunning a serial killer can be. All of these complications appear in the second half of this book.
The Man From Primrose Lane is an interesting goulash of style: a paranoid thriller cum police procedural set in a de-industrialised rust belt state, in which the eponymous man lives like a character from a Clifford D. Simak or Jack Finney science fiction novel in a cabin in the woods where he can play with Geiger counters and other gadgets in his own sweet time.
The time travel element, though, seems more like that you find in the British author Christopher Priest. Especially significant is Priest’s novel The Prestige (and its film adaptation) which features the historical Nikola Tesla building a matter transporter since Jenner’s inventor is also named Tesla, though his Tesla’s invention and the consequence so its time travel are rather different if no less tragic than Christopher Priest’s.
Stephen King’s time travel novel, 11.22.63, did not receive outstanding reviews, but for anyone who enjoys slip-stream literature, the strangeness and complexity of The Man From Primrose Lane means it should be on your TBR pile.