The Darkest Room, by Johan Theorin

by Peter

Johan Theorin has so far only written two books. Both are excellent. As a result, he is a bestseller in his native Sweden (in competition with Stieg Larsson and Henning Mankell). The first novel, Echoes from the Dead, has been well received internationally.The Darkest Room, by Johan Theorin This novel, The Darkest Room (Nattfåk – which means something like Night fog), the second in a planned series of four, is in my opinion even better. Like his first novel, this too is an intelligent book somewhere in between a crime fiction book and a ghost story.

A couple from Stockholm, Kathrine and Joachim, with their two children – Gabriel and Livia – has purchased an old manor house on Eel Point on the Swedish island of Öland. It has been empty for a long time – apart from the spirits of the dead, that is – and the houses have been neglected, but they want to renovate it and move in. The house has a strange history; it was built on timber from a ship that sunk in 1846. It is rumored to be visited by ghosts.

Strange things are still going on in the house. Before long, Katrine is found, drowned, close to the house. It looks like an accident, but the young policewoman Tilda Davidsson is not convinced that it was an accident. There are many strange things happening, and many houses are visited by thieves during the night.

Tilda Davidsson, who recently started working with the Marnäs police, is the grandchild of old Erlof’s brother (from Echoes of the Dead), and is interested in the history of Oland. She begins to investigate the accident, while also tracking down a gang denuding the uninhabited summer residences of antiques. More and more it becomes clear that somehow, for some reason, the gravitational center of the many odd things that seem to be happening is Eel Point.

The Darkest Room is well written, full of mysteries, and told in a style that evokes a feeling of that there is something mystical, perhaps super-natural, going on. The plot is rich and has lots of neat features, and Theorin very skillfully shows his cards one at a time in order to gradually build more and more suspense. As well, this is a book which displays a deep understanding of human vulnerability and grief. Another good Swedish crime fiction book, highly recommended!

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