Monday, November 9, 2015

the final chapter of the Öland Quartet : The Voices Beyond, by Johan Theorin

Transworld Publishers/Doubleday, 2015
originally published as Rörgast
translated by Marlaine Delargy
462 pp


For now, it seems that if you live in America and you want to read this book, you'll have to order it from the UK like I did or sit patiently and wait for it to be published in this country.  The second choice wasn't even an option for me -- as soon as I'd heard it was available, I had to have it; it went on vacation with me where I read it stretched out in a long lounger chair from which I didn't move while reading.   I have really enjoyed all of the books in Theorin's Öland Quartet up to this point, and I have to say that for a final entry, The Voices Beyond is an absolute page turner.  Despite the fact that there are nearly five hundred pages in this book, the story moves very quickly, but what I loved about this book is that it moves back and forth in time, revealing that the past most definitely has a strong hold on the present.  And as always, Theorin here is a master of atmosphere that just doesn't quit.  If you have to end a series, this is definitely the way to do it.  

It's tough not to get sucked into the story from the beginning.  If you've followed Theorin's Öland Quartet series so far, you will definitely remember Gerlof Davidsson.  When Gerlof was young in 1930,  he was part of a group of people digging a grave in the churchyard for Edvard Kloss. Once the body was lowered into the grave and covered up, the small group of gravediggers hears noises coming from where they'd just put the coffin --  a series of knocks that Gerlof Davidsson never forgets over the course of his lifetime.  Flash forward to the present and we find Gerlof back on the island of Öland for the summer holidays, staying at his home with his grandchildren.  In the middle of one night when he is sleeping in his boathouse, he is awakened out of a sound sleep by pounding on the door where he discovers a young boy, Jonas Kloss, wet and terrified.  It seems that Jonas has had a horrific encounter on what he calls a "ghost ship," and has managed to escape.  Because of Gerlof's own past, he has no trouble believing Jonas' account, and after he calms him down a bit, Gerlof starts asking questions.  What Jonas tells him lands Gerlof smack in the middle of a mystery that will take the reader back in time, moving ever slowly into the present where the past still exists in some minds.  It is a dark story that gets darker as the book (and the Swedish summer) moves along, revealing not only a modern-day mystery but also the failed dreams of a young boy who gets caught up in a situation not of his own making.  

Unlike my usual cautionary self, I have nothing negative to say about this novel which (with apologies for the old cliché) kept me glued until I turned the last page.  It is a fine story, difficult to read at times because of the sheer cruelty and inhumanity that Theorin so deftly reveals here, but perfect for someone like me who is very much into the darker side of human nature.  Cozy readers or readers of tamer Scandinavian crime fiction beware -- this is an incredibly dark and at times bleak novel, nothing at all cutesy here. It's an example of Scandinavian crime at its best.   One more thing -- even though it's #4 in Theorin's quartet, it is very possible to read this book as a standalone, but my advice is to take each book in its order of publication and to not let this one be your introduction to the series: read Echoes from the Dead, The Darkest Room, The Quarry all before you tackle The Voices Beyond -- there is a lot of history here of some of the characters that you won't want to miss.  

Super book -- I'm just sorry that it isn't widely available in the US right now so that more crime fiction fans can read it.

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