Review – Tall Oaks by Chris Whitaker

Tall Oaks


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.

Teenage Manny, whose absent father has left him with strange ideas of how to make his mark.

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…


My review

I think Michael Grothaus would be glad that I didn’t read Tall Oaks last year when it was published. Chris Whitaker’s debut would definitely have given Epiphany Jones a run for its money. Tall Oaks didn’t make me cry though so Epiphany Jones still would have been my number 1. But Tall Oaks made me laugh like no other crime book.

Crime is obviously not funny. And the abduction of a 3 year old is every family’s worst nightmare. Add to that an abductor who wears a clown mask and you’re toppling into horror. Yet, Chris Whitaker manages to write a bitter sweet novel, with a cast worthy of Charles Dickens.

The main plot line is weaved in and out of the colourful characters, their lives interlinking in the American small town of Tall Oaks. There are many suspects and many secrets to discover before we find out the truth. Harry Monroe, the missing 3 year old, is always there at the back of our minds, but it’s the characters whose lives continue that capture our imagination. Jerry, a gentle giant with a voice that never broke, who works in a photo shop. Jared, the car salesman who never stays too long in one place. Elena, a single mum who works with French John – a cake maker of extraordinary skill. Elena has two children – Thalia (aged 3 and friend of Harry) and Manny (18). When I read other reviews of this book, Manny’s name was repeated over and over again. And now that I’ve read it, I understand why. Do you remember Shia LaBeouf’s character, Louis Stevens from Even Stevens? The kid that was always getting into trouble? Imagine him with a lot of swearing and you have Manny. An 18 year old who’s still a kid trying to please his dad, even though his dad had left a couple of years before. Sometimes a writer creates a character that is just genius. Manny is that character in Tall Oaks.

This novel was a delight to read and I found it difficult to put it down. But equally, I didn’t want to finish it. I wanted Tall Oaks to continue. This is a book just begging to be made into a television series.

So what do I do? Am I allowed to put a book published last year into my top ten reads at the end of 2017? Of course I am. My list, my rules.


To buy Tall Oaks, click here.

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