Thursday, January 13, 2011

A review of "The Darkest Room" [3]

The Darkest Room: A Novel by Johan Theorin
Translated from the Swedish by Marlaine Delargy
Delta, ISBN 978-0385342223
September 29, 2009, 448 pages

Joakim and Katrine Westin are a young couple who are in the process of moving, with their two children, from Stockholm to Eel Point, on the island of Öland off the coast of Sweden, to their newly purchased house. The impressive manor house, in the shadow of two lighthouses, was built from the wood of a shipwrecked boat and some feel that over the centuries it has been cursed. By the use of short flashbacks, which are in fact excerpts from a book written by Katrine's mother, we learn some of the tragic things that have taken place there in the past. So when a horrible tragedy overtakes the Westin family there, we are not terrible surprised, and as the story plays out, we will see how it ties into the troubled history that drove them to the island in the first place. It seems that it may be impossible to escape the past.

We also have the storyline of police officer Tilda Davidsson, newly assigned to the community and with her own past to deal with. She is also dealing with the investigation into a rash of recent break ins on the island and on a personal level, with becoming re-acquainted with her grand-uncle, the former sea captain Gerlof Davidsson, perhaps my favorite character in the book.  Wise and insightful, I found him a charmer and a key character in the book.
And then we have the character of the island itself. In the summer, Öland is a bright and sunny vacation resort but when the winter winds and brutal storms start to blow in off the Baltic Sea, it is a very different place. It is  a place full that gives off a bleak and stark atmosphere that is a perfect setting for a mystery, especailly a mystery with more than a few ghosts thrown in.

The Darkest Room is the winner of the 2010 Crime Writers Association's International Dagger Award and a very fitting winner it is. Now, I will admit that I have a particular fondness for Scandinavian mysteries, and yes, this one has not one, but two lighthouses, but that is certainly not the only reasons that I liked this book so much. It is a complex story, with several interweaving plotlines, yet it is always clear and engaging. I am often not a fan of supernatural elements in my mysteries, but Theorin does it so subtly, so naturally, that you can not help but see it as an integral element of the book.
Great characters, a great story, very well told, highly recommended to mystery fans.


  1. This sounds like a place you, wee Caite, would want to live, not just read about. A belated happy birthday to you! Have fun with your new snowblower.

  2. I do like supernatural elements - not necessarily in every mystery - but I don't mind them. I have this one on my Kindle and want to read it this year. Sounds spooky!

  3. I haven't tried a Scandinavian mystery yet, but they seem to be all the rage these days. This one sounds good.

  4. *jumping up and down and making a fuss* I want to read this one NOW!!!!

  5. I love how you worked in the lighthouse early on in your review. I thought "I bet this gets points just for the lighthouse factor."

    And why do they always say "from the Swedish"? Isn't it just "from Swedish"? I need to Google this ... it sounds wrong to me!

  6. I...a great authority on all such things... (ok, not really) say either is correct.
    or not. :-)


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