The Darkest Room evolves around three elements, a house, an island and a severe winter storm, a blizzard. The house is an isolated manor house built in 1846 and open to the sea on north-eastern Öland. It was built to house the masters and keepers of the twin lighthouses in Eel Point. The foundations are made of granite from an old abandoned chapel and the timber came from ships wrecked on the rocks. Over the years it has acquired a dark reputation because of several deaths there. Öland is the second largest Swedish island. It’s located in the Baltic Sea just off the coast of Småland. Öland has 25,000 inhabitants, but at midsummer over 500,000 people reside on it. It’s separated from mainland by the Kalmar Strait but since 1972 it’s connected by a 6 km bridge (from Wikipedia). For a winter storm to be classified as a blizzard, it must meet several conditions: There must be falling or blowing snow, strong winds, and cold or falling temperatures. However there is no worldwide consensus on its definition.
The action takes place through several stories which will merge at a certain point near to the end. A young couple, Katrine and Joakim Westin, together with their children, Livia and Gabriel, have moved to a manor house in Eel Point. But soon their lives will be struck by tragedy. At the same time Henrik Jansson and the Serelius brothers have formed a criminal partnership to sack closed-up summer cottages which are abundant in that area. Meanwhile a young policewoman, Tilda Davidsson, arrives to a new police station on northern Öland in charge mainly of traffic offences, criminal damage, petty theft and break-ins. In her spare time she likes to hear family stories by her grandfather’s brother, Gerlof Davidsson.
The whole atmosphere of this book is beautifully drafted and it has some very interesting characters. The plot gains momentum and increases its intensity after a relatively slow start but the outcome is brilliant. This is a terrific book and I enjoyed it thoroughly. It is very well written and despite its continuous references to ghosts and legends, readers should be aware that, there are no supernatural occurrences in this absolutely superb novel.
2010 Scandinavian Reading Challenge Book # 5
The Darkest Room won the Glass Key Award in 2009, it was voted Best Swedish Crime Novel 2008 and it’s shortlisted for the CWA International Dagger in 2010. The Darkest Room is Johan Theorin’s second novel and it has certainly made me interested to read his first one, Echoes from the Dead (both translated from the Swedish by Marlaine Delargy). They are the first books in a quartet, The Öland Quartet, each one set in a different season. The spring novel will be called A Place of Blood.
The Darkest Room has been reviewed by: Maxine at Euro Crime, Dorte at Djs Krimiblog, Michael Carlson at Irresistible Targets, It’s a Crime! (Or a Mystery), Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise, Glenn Harper at International Noir Fiction, Uriah Robinson at Crime Scraps, Vanda at Overkill, Scandinavian Crime Fiction, Yvonne Klein at Reviewing the evidence, Scandinavian Books, Bernadette at Reactions to Reading.
See also Johan Theorin Official UK Website
Read an excerpt at The Random House Group