The Quarry by Johan Theorin


Esta entrada es bilingüe; para ver la versión en castellano desplazarse por la ventana hacia abajo

Translated from the Swedish by Marlaine Delargy, 2011. Original title Blodläge, 2010. First published in Great Britain in 2011 by Doubleday an imprint of Transworld Publishers. 416 pages. ISBN: 978-0-385-61929-5.

The Quarry is the spring book in the season series the Ösland quartet. The story unfolds between Easter and Walpurgis night, the first of May. The novel shows the past and present of three different families, who eventually meet at a welcome party organised in Stenvik by the Larssons to know their neighbours.

We meet again captain Gerlof Davidsson who, despite his advanced age, has left the senior citizen home to return back to his cottage in Stenvik. Besides Ernst’s cottage, the last of the villagers to work in the quarry, there are two luxury homes in the area recently built. Ernst’s cottage, inherited by a second cousin, looks like a woodshed in comparison.

Vendela and Max Larsson live in one of these recently built luxury cottages. Vendela’s family is originally from the island. She grew up in a farm on the outskirts of Stenvik, reason why she persuaded her husband to buy a plot of land here. Their home is an architectural dream at the seaside, a fairy tale palace of stone and glass. Her husband is a psychologist turned into a successful writer of self-help books. Most of them written by Vendela.

Per Mörner is a divorced father of twins who has inherited Ernst’s cottage. He is preparing for his children visit when his father, Jerry, calls him for help. Per has distanced himself from his father, he is ashamed of him. Jerry has recently suffered a stroke and can hardly make himself understood. However, Per arrives in time to save his life but Jerry has been stabbed, his property is on fire and later on two bodies are found completely burned. The only suspect is Hans Bremer, Jerry’s partner, but Bremer has died in the fire and both bodies had their hands tied. But Jerry insists that the arson was caused by Hans Bremer. When Jerry dies in hospital a few days later, Per becomes determined to find out what really happened. But the closer he gets to the truth, the more danger he finds himself in.

‘Traces of blood?’ said Gerlof. ‘I’ve never seen any,’

‘Not traces of blood’, said Per. ‘It’s more like a red layer that you can see in the rock … Ernst used to talk about the place of blood.’ 

‘Oh, that?’ Gerlof laughed. ‘Yes, that’s what the quarry workers used to call it. But it’s not blood, it’s iron oxide. It was formed when Öland lay beneath the water and the quarry was part of the sea bed. The sun shone down through the waters of the Baltic and the sea bed oxidized.’…….

‘Was the stone good down there?’

‘No, quite the opposite,’ said Gerlof. ‘When they reached the place of blood they’d gone too far’.

Per nodded and said, ‘So now I know. There’s always a simple explanation’.

It does not seem an easy task to briefly comment this intense thriller. Suffice is to say that I was not disappointed in comparison with the two previous instalments in the series. It is probably rather complex and it may not be to everyone’s taste, but for me it’s an excellent novel from one of the most interesting Nordic crime fiction writers today. It’s not just the way he develops the plot or how he creates the atmosphere that surrounds the story. It is also about how he chooses the characters and the relationship established between reality and imagination, between past and present. And furthermore it is about his ability to capture the isolation and beauty of this mysterious Baltic island, its history and its legends of trolls and elves. Everything counts and serves well to catch the reader’s attention, while the tension increases as we approach the end. A delightful tale masterfully told.

The Quarry has been reviewed by Bernadette at Reactions to Reading, Maxine at Euro Crime, Peter at Nordic Blog, Milo at Milo’s Rambles, NacyO at the crime segments, and Rob at The View from the Blue House

I’m taking this book into account for the 2011 Nordic Challenge.

La marca de sangre de Johan Theorin

La marca de sangre corresponde a la primavera en la serie sobre las estaciones del año del cuarteto de Osland. La historia se desarrolla entre la Semana Santa y la noche de Walpurgis, el primero de mayo. La novela muestra el pasado y el presente de tres familias distintas, que por casualidad se encuentran en una fiesta de bienvenida organizada en Stenvink por los Larssons para conocer a sus vecinos.

Nos encontramos de nuevo con el capitán Gerlof Davidsson quien, a pesar de su avanzada edad, ha dejado su residencia para regresar a su casa de campo en Stenvik. Además de la casa de Ernst, el último de los trabajadores en la cantera, hay otras dos casas de lujo en la zona, de nueva construcción. La casa de Ernst, heredada por un sobrino, parece una choza de leña en comparación.

Vendela y Max Larsson viven en una de esta casas de lujo. La familia de Vendela es originaria de la isla. Ella creció en una granja de las afueras de Stenvik, motivo por el que convenció a su marido para comprar un terreno aquí. Su casa es un sueño arquitectónico en la orilla del mar, un palacio de cuento de hadas de piedra y cristal. Su marido es un psicólogo convertido en un escritor de éxito de libros de autoayuda. La mayoría de ellos escritos por Vendela.

Per Mörner es un padre divorciado de gemelos que ha heredado la casa de Ernst. Se está preparando para la visita de sus hijos cuando su padre, Jerry, le pide ayuda. Per se ha distanciado de su padre, se avergüenza de él. Jerry ha sufrido recientemente un derrame cerebral y no puede hacerse entender. Sin embargo, Per llega a tiempo de salvarle la vida, aunque Jerry ha sido apuñalado, su propiedad está en llamas y más tarde aparecen dos cuerpos completamente calcinados. El único sospechoso es Hans Bremer, el socio de Jerry, pero Bremer ha muerto en el incendio y ambos cuerpos tenian las manos atadas. Pero Jerry insiste en que el incendio fue causado por Hans Bremer. Cuando Jerry muere en el hospital unos días más tarde, Per está decidido a averiguar lo que realmente sucedió. Sin embargo, cuanto más se acerca a la verdad, mayor peligro corre.

No parece tarea fácil hacer un breve comentario sobre este intenso thriller. Suficiente, es decir que no me decepcionó en comparación con las dos anteriores entregas de la serie. Es probable que sea bastante complejo y puede que no sea del gusto de todos, pero para mí es una excelente novela de uno de los escritores nórdicos de novela negra más interesantes hoy en día. No es sólo la forma en que desarrolla la trama, o cómo crea la atmósfera que rodea a la historia. Se trata también de cómo elige a sus personajes y sobre la relación que establece entre realidad e imaginación, entre el pasado y el presente. Además, conviene destacar su capacidad para captar el aislamiento y la belleza de esta misteriosa isla del Báltico, sus historias y sus leyendas de duendes y de elfos. Todo cuenta y todo sirve para atrapar la atención del lector, mientras la tensión aumenta a medida que nos acercamos al desenlace. Un cuento delicioso magistralmente narrado.

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16 thoughts on “The Quarry by Johan Theorin

  1. José Ignacio. – I’m so glad you liked this one as much as you did. And perhaps it’s not a bad thing that you find this novel difficult to summarise in a post. Theorin is not an easy writer to describe, and I like the fact that he challenges the reader.

  2. It’s very interesting to read your review and reactions to this novel, Jose Ignacio. I very much enjoyed it, too, I agree that it is quite complex, and not a conventional crime novel in many ways. I love the depiction of life on the island, especially the old ways and people. Another interesting point for me was that I didn’t like Per or Vendela much at the start, but by the end I had grown very fond of them.

    1. You are right Maxine. I should have said it’s a non-conventional criem novel and I did enjoyed very mcuh also the despiction of life in the island, past and present.

  3. Acabo de ver en las librerías la edición española de “Blodläge” así que creo que será uno de los libros a regalarme esta Navidad. Me alegro de que te siga gustando Theorin y que esta tercera parte mantenga el nivel de las anteriores. Lo que más me gusta de la serie es que no se trata de novela negra clásica, sino que introduce también elementos más propios de la novela gótica o fantástica. Como bien dices, uno de los actuales autores nórdicos más interesantes.

    Saludos

  4. I’m glad you liked it too, and you’re right it’s probably not to everyone’s taste but I loved it too. The atmosphere really is a highlight as you say.

  5. Theorin is one of my favourites and I really enjoyed this book too Jose. Good idea to link to previous blog reviews – I must start doing that myself.

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