Friday 3 May 2013

Johan Theorin's mystery, Skumtimmen [Echoes from the Dead]

Anna Nordeman


I've just finished reading Johan Theorin's mystery, Skumtimmen [Echoes from the Dead] and am really impressed by this debut. Johan Theorin is a journalist who has written two or three more mystery/crime novels since this debut and has won several prestigious awards.

Johan Theorin

This is a mystery set on the Baltic Island of Oland [Öland]. A small boy, 5 almost 6 years old disappears in the early 1970s leaving his single-mother devastated. After more than twenty years, the boy's grandfather receives a small sandal that could have belonged to the little boy. Together, the grandfather and the mother try to find the boy's murderer. But the prime suspect, a man who already murdered three people, died and was buried nine years before the child's disappearance.

This novel is beautifully written in Swedish. I haven't read the English translation yet, but this well-built story, in crystal-clear Swedish prose, should be easy to translate. With its different time-frames and multiple points of view, it is a well-layered novel about loss, grief and forgiveness. 

The characters are very much alive. The best characterisation is of the amateur sleuth, the aging sea-captain and grandfather of the boy. An unusual, but worthy choice of hero. 

The setting on this strangely beautiful island is painterly described and also change in this environment over time. [I've been to the island of Oland. It is like that!]

This novel has many fine qualities that I would be proud to achieve in my own writing; it is suggestively written; much is left to the imagination, which makes it a very suspenseful story; and a joy to read. I lost two nights sleep not being able to put it down. The plot is never dull, although the same incidences are seen from different angles, until we see the whole picture clearly through the eyes of the old sea-captain at the end.
Best wishes,

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