Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Darkest Room by Johan Theorin

Title: The Darkest Room
Author: Johan Theorin
Translated from the Swedish: Marlaine Delargy
ISBN: 9780385342223, Delta, 2009
Genre: Police Procedural
Rating: A+

First Line: Valter Brommesson is sitting in a little stone house at Eel Point, praying to God with his hands clasped together.

Schoolteacher Joakim Westin has finally tied up all loose ends and has made the move from Stockholm to join his wife Katrine and their two small children in their new home on Eel Point on the island of Öland. Katrine has made great strides in remodeling the large home while Joakim was in Stockholm, and he's looking forward to joining with her to finish it up.

One day Joakim comes home to discover that Katrine has drowned in shallow water near Eel Point's twin lighthouses. Although the police proclaim it an accident, Tilda Davidsson, a cop new to the area, isn't convinced and conducts her own investigation in her free time. And while a burglary ring breaks into summer homes and Tilda quietly gathers information, the grieving Joakim and his children feel that Katrine is somehow still with them.

Once again the setting is Öland, an island that the author is very familiar with, having spent many childhood summers there. Theorin's family, sailors and farmers, has lived on the island for generations. His physical knowledge of the area has combined with the stories and the history of the place to make wonderfully atmospheric books. The Darkest Room, in many ways, is even more atmospheric and horripilating than his first book, Echoes From the Dead, which I also loved.

A thin thread links this second book to the first, since Tilda Davidsson is the great niece of Gerlof Davidsson who played such a large role in Echoes From the Dead. Joakim Westin grieves so much for his wife that it's not always certain whether what he's seeing and hearing is really there. The three burglars are unpredictable, and that increases the sense of unease. And then Theorin weaves in the stories and histories of Eel Point from several generations. Each story explains a bit more. Each history illuminates another small dusty corner.

A house built with timber that dying sailors had clung to in despair before the sea took them-- should my mother and I have known better than to move in there at the end of the 1950s? Should you and your family really have moved there thirty-five years later, Katrine?

If you don't believe in spirits or places that are haunted by their histories, you may very well undergo a sea change while reading The Darkest Room. Within the space of two superbly crafted books, Johan Theorin has become one of my favorite writers.

Now if I'd just stop sitting here looking over my shoulder....

[Source: Christmas gift from my husband.]


  1. It seems your husband has excellent taste Cathy. I've got this one in my TBR pile and am really looking forward to it. I loved ECHOES FROM THE DEAD

  2. Thank you so much for sharing this one! I've been into a Swedish author phase since The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and this sounds wonderful!

  3. I'm looking forward to reading this one along with Echoes of the Dead soon. I have both of them on my Kindle. Thanks for your thoughts.

  4. Even though I have easi access to Swedish author's works here in Copenhagen (being literally less than an hour's drive from Malmö, one of Sweden's largest cities) I actually haven't heard about this writer. I do like Swedish mysteries though, and this one sounds exciting. Perhaps its even translated to Danish...

  5. This series sounds fabulous. I kind of do believe that houses can be haunted by their histories. One time when we were house-hunting, I stepped inside the front door of a house and told the realtor that we could leave because the house totally creeped me out and I wasn't going any farther into it. The house looked normal, but it just felt creepy to me, so I knew I could never live in it. Sounds weird, I know, but it's true.

  6. Cathy - Thanks so much for this wonderful review. I've heard from others, too, that this one and Echoes of the Dead are wonderful reads, so I must get them and read them - SOON!

  7. Sounds delicious! I've got to get into these Swedish authors.

    I've often believed our 1861 farmhouse has a benign "presence" in it, maybe the wife of the man who built it? This is something I felt from the first time we looked at it. Having said that, I definitely do not believe in ghosts.

  8. A great review of a great author! I am a bit jealous because they have all these amazing crime writers in Sweden and Norway. Denmark is not really in the same league.

  9. Bernadette-- He's a very smart man who pays attention to my online wish list! LOL

    Suzanne-- There are some absolutely wonderful Scandinavian authors being published right now. A reader can almost be spoiled for choice!

    Kay--You're welcome. I hope you enjoy both of them as much as I did!

    Louise-- This book is very good. I hope you can get your hands on a copy!

    Kathy-- I've had things like that happen to me ever since I was a little girl. If a house gives me the creeps, I get out of it!

    Margot K-- Yes, you should!

    Barbara-- After a couple of things that have happened to me, I'm not sure what I think.

    Dorte-- Is everyone too content in Denmark? :)

  10. I just had to see what the A+ was all about. I'm not sure it's for me but I very glad you enjoyed it.

  11. Too content? I don´t think so though many Danes have good reason to. Perhaps they are just too lazy to write well?

    Part of the problem is certainly language. And I know that adjectives are out of favour these years, but I just can´t stand reading 300 pages without a decent, crisp adjective now and then. Some writers seem to believe that "show, don´t tell" means you cannot use adjectives or adverbs at all.

  12. Margot JR-- That's one good thing about books... there are so many that there's bound to be some that suit each and every one of us. :)

    Dorte-- I have friends who live in Denmark and seem to be very content. Their "thing" isn't writing, but speaking. Get them on something like Skype, and you're there forever! Like you, I need some adjectives now and then-- regardless of fashion!


Thank you for taking the time to make a comment. I really appreciate it!