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Tuesday, July 06, 2010

The Darkest Room by Johan Theorin

Theorin, Johan.  The Darkest Room.  (trans. by Marlaine Delargy)

Mystery and ghost story weave seamlessly with family tragedy and old secrets in this novel by Swedish author Johan Theorin. 

Joakim and Katrine Westin move their family to an old manor house on a small island off the coast of Sweden.  They begin a painstaking and loving restoration of the house; Katrine and the children remaining on the island while Joakim visits on weekends until completing his teaching assignment in Stockholm.  Finally able to join his family full time, his joy is short-lived when Katrin is discovered drowned.  Joakim, thrown into a spiral of despair, feels Katrine's presence and is a bit unnerved by his daughter's dreams in which she talks in her sleep about seeing Katrin.

There are many stories, past and present, tangling their way through the narrative, but each thread is gradually pulled into whole cloth with a deliberate and gradual revealing of the overall pattern.  And the frame?  The island itself, the ocean, the weather...wonderful atmosphere.

 Theorin's slow revelation of information is part of the quiet suspense and his skillful unveiling of connections among events in the past and present keep the reader curious and alert.

I especially liked the policewoman Tilda Davidsson and her grandfather's brother, Gerlof.  A novel with complex characters, the psychology of grief, suspense, criminals who consult a Ouija board, family secrets,  and subtle misdirection--The Darkest Room should keep you turning the pages into the night.

Other reviews:  Danielle's at  A Work in Progress, and here at It's a Crime! (Or a Mystery...)

Fiction.  Mystery/Crime.  2009.  438 pages.


  1. Ooooh, Jenclair, I like the sound of this one. I probably read about it before on Danielle's blog, but I'm putting it on my wishlist. Thanks for sharing!

  2. This does sound great! I've recently read several Swedish books though so I need to take a break from them for a bit but this is one that's on my list. So glad to hear you enjoyed it too.

  3. kay - It is worth adding to your wishlist. I do think you'll enjoy this one!

    iliana - I've read quite a few Swedish books lately, too, and have enjoyed them all. Nordic authors are really getting the reviews lately!