The Öland Quartet

Johan Theorin, born 1963, has spent all his summers on the island of Öland, where his debut, the crime novel Echoes From the Dead (Skumtimmen), which has received great international acclaim, takes place. In October 2009 he was awarded the CWA John Creasey New Blood Dagger for Echoes From the Dead, and then went on to win the CWA International Dagger 2010 for The Darkest Room (Nattfåk), book two in a planned series of four, all set on Öland, with one book for each season of the year. In April 2010 the third book, The Quarry (Blodläge) was published. (Source: Hedlung Literary Agency)

His last book in the so called Öland quartet, originally titled Rörgast, was published in 2013. The Spanish version El último verano en la isla, translated by Carlos del Valle Hernández has been published by Random House this month. According to Hedlung Literary Agency, Transworld has the English rights for the UK. The English title: The Ghost in the Grave

Now the sun is broiling the limestone-white island, but this vacation paradise is hiding dark secrets.

“The ghost ship came gliding through the darkness, across the glittering black water, making way for nothing and no one. It towered over the boy. It was rusty, as if it had been at sea for centuries. There was no one moving on deck, but an engine throbbed deep inside the ship like a living heart.

The rubber boat had begun to sink, so he had no choice. He reached up for the railing and climbed aboard.”

Elderly skipper Gerlof Davidsson wakes in the middle of the night to a boy pounding on his door. The boy staggers in from the shore and tells him of a ship full of dead and dying sailors and a crazy man with an axe.

It’s the start of a sultry peak season on Öland, as tens of thousands of tourists descend to celebrate Midsummer. But one of the visitors has returned home from another country to demand payment for a very old debt, and he leaves death and terror in his wake in the summer night.

In the throng of people, it is only Gerlof who begins to suspect who has come home, and why his goal is to get revenge on an entire family. He is the only one who has met the man before, in his youth, when the two of them suddenly heard knocking from a freshly-dug grave as they stood in the cemetery … (Hedlung Literary Agency)

I still believe I may have committed an injustice by not having included either The Darkest Room or Echoes From the Dead within my Top Five Crime Books. You can also find my review of The Quarry here.

Johan Theorin: El guardian de los niños

Mondadori has released this month in Spanish the latest book by Johan Theorin in his Öland Quartet, El guardián de niños, translated by Carlos del Valle Hernández, original title: Sankta Psyko. You can find a review in English at Swedish Book Review. My mistake, sorry. This book is not set in Öland. Therefore it is not the fourth instalment in The Öland Quartet.

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.

New Release

La marca de sangre (Mondadori, 2011) by Johan Theorin will be release next 20 October 2011 in Spain (English title The Quarry). The information from the publisher does not mention the translator. I’m planning to read it soon. Stay tuned.

    1. El cuarteto de Öland
    2. Random House Mondadori