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 friends gather to catch up, sit by the fire, and forget about their overworked lives. But a long weekend in the country is not Joseph’s idea of a good time -- not when he’s promised his ex-wife he'll use the occasion to talk to their troubled fourteen-year-old daughter, and not when the farm belongs to his former lover and her husband, Alex. Once best friends, Joseph and Alex are now estranged, with much left unspoken between them. As more guests arrive and the reunion unfolds, old rivalries, new pressures, and erotic tensions surface. But things take a terrifying turn when the adults return from a nostalgic drug-fuelled bender at sundown to discover their two teenage daughters are missing. As night descends and the girls remain unfound, Joseph and Alex decide to enter the surrounding woods together in search of their daughters. What the two men encounter in the wilderness will push them to confront how far they are willing to go to protect the ones they love.
By turns blackly comic, thought-provoking, and harrowing, Harmless introduces James Grainger as an unflinching observer of the way we live now, and exposes the dark impulses we conceal beneath the veneer of our modern lives.
About the author
JAMES GRAINGER's debut collection of stories, The Long Slide (2004), was the winner of the ReLit Award for Short Fiction. His reviews and articles have appeared in the Toronto Star, Quill & Quire, the Globe and Mail, Elle Canada, Men's Fashion, Sharp, and Rue Morgue.
A National Post Best Book — 2015
Globe and Mail 100 — 2015
“Bristling and tense, and with a sharp critique of masculinity lurking within its grabby plot, James Grainger’s Harmless is anything but.”
--Andrew Pyper, author of The Demonologist and The Damned
“Harmless is a literary narcotic that seeps into your veins so gradually you aren’t even sure you’ve been drugged. It’s not until the sleeplessness hits and you feel the urge to scream from the mounting dread that you realize you’re at its mercy. This book blew my doors off. A total stunner.”
--Craig Davidson, author of Cataract City
“Harmless is not so. Grainger’s seamless prose belies a telltale, fearsome heart. The novel’s ruthless exposure of love and fear, and their necessary fusion, is both heart-rending and deeply chilling. Shocking and eloquent, and terribly difficult to stop reading, Harmless is a remarkable novel of complex sensibilities that makes dreadful, lyrical, and compelling sense.”
--Lynn Crosbie, author of Life Is About Losing Everything