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2.68  ·  Rating details ·  162 ratings  ·  33 reviews
Set over the course of a single day and night, Harmless is a tense, provocative, and psychologically astute first novel in the tradition of Herman Koch's The Dinner, Tom Perrotta’s Little Children, and Christos Tsiolkas’s The Slap, about a weekend reunion of old friends that takes a terrifying turn when two teenage girls go missing.
At a remote farm, a group of old frien
Paperback, 288 pages
Published May 5th 2015 by McClelland & Stewart
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Average rating 2.68  · 
Rating details
 ·  162 ratings  ·  33 reviews

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C.M. Subasic
Apr 06, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: couldn-t-finish, arc
I was given this book in exchange for an honest review. My 3 stars is really 2.5.

What this writer is trying to do is challenging. It's a mash-up of genres. There's thriller, mixed with crime, psychological drama and literary indie press style. This book wants so hard to be an update of Deliverance, but for several reasons, misfires and strangles itself.

The writer's work on the page is stellar. The poetry and apt images spill from the pages with simplicity, honesty and beauty:

...but he felt his
May 20, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: can-con, 2015
You read about these personal catastrophes, relieved that your kid wasn't missing, but also secretly disappointed to have missed out on the experience, because how often in this bloodless age do you get the chance to test your mettle against the elements, against the bad guys? You imagine what you'd do in the parents' situation, how you'd act with courage, sacrifice, and resolve right up until the final scene, when your dirt-streaked child jumps into your arms, crying, “Daddy you found me!”

Jennifer G
Oct 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book did not get very good reviews from the Goodreads audience, however, I really enjoyed it. I think what I liked most about it is was that it is different from the usual books that I read.

First of all, this thriller takes place over a single day and night. Several families are visiting their friends at a farm in the country. There's some tension between the adults; most of the adults knew each other when they were young and wild, and some of them even dated each other. The father who owns
Debra Komar
Sep 06, 2015 rated it liked it
2.5 stars, rounded up to 3

This is a tough one, as this book is one of the rare instances in which there is style and quality to the writing but serious issues with the storytelling.

Grainger has a very crisp style - the metaphors are fresh and the writing is tight. He is not afraid of compound, complex sentences and the book feels far more literary than popular as a result. All good.

The problem is the plot, which is thin at best. There is nothing wrong with a simple idea but you could sum up the
Mary Sue
Apr 05, 2015 rated it liked it
I received this as a Goodreads First Reads ARC. I found it difficult to get into the book and struggled through the first part. It dragged for me and I felt the author was spending too much time setting up the rest of the novel. There were a lot of characters in the first section and I had difficulty keeping them all straight. Once the key event happened and the action started, the pace picked up and I found myself enjoying it much more.
Jul 27, 2015 rated it it was ok
I picked up this novel because it was reviewed by another author I recently read and thoroughly enjoyed. Individual sentences were gorgeous but the overall story lacked direction and cohesion.
Dec 16, 2020 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 07, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: my-library
only meh. I found the writing odd how it switched between narrative styles without any indications. it also over described some things that really didn't seem to matter. the story did end somewhat entertaining. but again, only meh. ...more
Sep 13, 2019 rated it liked it
More like 3 and a half stars mostly because the writing was as luminous as the story was dark. After almost losing me with a very slow start, the tension ratcheted up quickly and effectively in the testosterone fuelled second half of the book. I found it more of a treatise on middle aged disillusionment than on toxic masculinity - but both played major roles in the plot.
I look forward to the writer's next book.
Sep 06, 2017 rated it liked it
A very, very masculine/manly story. Not my typical thing, however a great literary psychological thriller.
Marni Lee
Jun 18, 2018 rated it it was ok
Found this an aimless, rather dull story. The prose itself felt self-conscious and over-wrought.
Oct 30, 2015 rated it it was ok
WARNING : ANIMAL ABUSE/VIOLENCE FOR NO REASON. Oh yeah it's one of those books.

From the start I hated this book. Too many characters. Parents, kids, friends, who was related to who?? Which person WAS this?? Why was there no tree or anything showing who was connected in the beginning? Well, as it turns out it barely mattered. A lot of them were pointless.

The main character was so unlikeable. Think of one of those guys you just can't stand that seems to idolize himself but everyone else kind of k
Feb 20, 2015 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Justin Lahey
Apr 04, 2016 rated it liked it
James Grainger's debut Harmleas was a good read, a good tale of grown-ups seeking fulfillment and some form of life redemption of self-proclamation. The pace could have been better - it crawled forward at a snail's pace. The character development and various plot twists were good, but often either predictable or a bit underwhelming. The premise was so promising, and it certainly started out like this would be a very solid "social drama" as I like to refer to such stories. But I felt it never del ...more
Noelle Walsh
Apr 07, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
Wow, this book was a little weird. I did like the characters. I did like how things were described and it felt like the author was painting incredible landscapes in my imagination. The first half felt a little jumbled on occasion, and on occasion it did feel unbelievable. It wasn't what I was expecting and I'm not sue that's a good thing at the moment.

*won on GoodReads First Reads*
Jun 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
A very good, fast-paced literary thriller. It reminded me in tone of The Devil You Know by Elisabeth de Mariaffi but I was less able to find my way in to the male-protector angst than I was into Evie's perspective, perhaps naturally. Still, the fear of a parent is familiar and so too are the tensions held and released in complicated relationships. Recommended. ...more
Oct 17, 2015 rated it it was ok
A rather odd book about odd people.

A group of friends gather one weekend at a farm house owned by one of the couples.. Two daughters go missing and their fathers go hunting for them.

Then the tale gets bizarre as Joseph, be of the fathers, keeps having an internal dialogue about what might have happened to his daughter. He also imagines ulterior motives for Alex's actions.

Jun 01, 2016 rated it liked it
A dark and interesting read. Haunting - even after time passes, it continues to cause me to think back and review the events over the course of this one day / night in this book. Surprising and unexpected in many parts of the book.

Read Koch's The Dinner and this left the same feeling of uneasiness ...

Well done!
Denise Williams
Apr 04, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: freebies
This book was ok. The beginning was good, but it lost me a bit towards the end. Also, don't want to spoil anything - there was one section that seemed very unnecessary to me, an excuse to have too much graphic sexual content. Didn't work for me.
Just OK.
Natashya KitchenPuppies
May 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is a fascinating book. The genre does seem to twist and turn as you read on, keeping you alert and guessing.

See my full review here - http://livinginthekitchenwithpuppies....
Dec 30, 2015 rated it liked it
Set over the course of one long evening, family and old friends gather to find themselves slide into a night of tension and terror. James Grainger never lets up on the suspense while the woods and the dark consume more than the teenage girls who have gone missing. Well done debut novel!
Jan 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
One part psychological thriller, one part meditation on modern masculinity. Main character is an unlikeable selfish jerk but the author manages to make him sympathetic to the reader by the end. The thriller part was only mildly thrilling but the psychology part was pretty good.
Lisa Henderson-Farr
Feb 20, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: first-reads
I really didn't like this. The story felt very jumbled to me but maybe that was intentional as the characters were all suppose to be high. ...more
Judy LeBlanc
Apr 27, 2015 rated it liked it
Not what I expected, a good read, strange ending, must admit skipped parts - but just the gory stuff. Interesting cast of characters.
Stefania Vani
Jul 14, 2015 rated it did not like it
Not my cup of tea. Not my anything.
Kristy Fletcher
Aug 03, 2015 rated it liked it
i liked it, definately took a while to figure out everything, plotwise. Does mess with your mind a bit, ending slightly anticlimatic.
Crissy Calhoun
A very accomplished novel, but ultimately not my cuppa. I was intrigued by the first half, repulsed by the second. And now I need to wash some images out of my brain.
Jim Allan
Dec 09, 2015 rated it it was ok
sometimes even plausible.
Doriana Bisegna
Jan 11, 2017 rated it liked it
While I appreciated the writing, I have to say that this is more of a literary thriller for men. The storyline really didn't play to my taste! ...more
Feb 28, 2016 rated it liked it
A book that reads quickly. Not so relatable for myself, but it was still interesting.
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