ECHOES FROM THE DEAD - Johan Theorin
This book is just classic Swedish / Scandinavian crime fiction. Slow, involved, intricate, revealing and complex, ECHOES FROM THE DEAD concentrates very much on Julia, and her father, and their slow and careful repairing of a relationship which was torn apart at the time that Julia's son disappeared.
Julia hasn't coped at all since her son's disappearance and she's at a particularly low ebb in life when her father calls her back to the small, closed in island on which the boy disappeared. Julia's father, Gerlof, lives in a home now, but he's still connected with the island and the people. And that's the other thing that this book draws out beautifully - connections. Much of the solution to the disappearance of the little boy relies on the connection that only time can bring. Gerlof and his cronies are islanders from way back, and the little tweaks of memory, knowing who to ask about what, and where to look for information is part of the reason that Gerlof and Julia are finally able to get to the bottom of the boy's loss. Guilt and revenge also play their own part, as does stupidity and a momentary loss of control which leads to an even greater loss in years to come. As does suspicion. The character of Nils is particularly poignant - guilty perhaps, but not of everything, it's easy to make an outsider / somebody who is perhaps not quite "all there" responsible for everything. It's really really easy to jump to conclusions and get things wrapped up all neat and tidy.
It's undoubtedly a slow book, but slow is exactly what you want in this instance. You're pulled into this tiny little community. You're pulled into the profound grief and total loss of Julia, you're pulled into the way that Gerlof tries to put things right with his own daughter. But none of these things - after all those years - can be resolved quickly, and the book doesn't push you through, but quietly, understatedly allows the events to pull you to them. It's a character study at the same time as it's an investigation. The resolution is complicated and messy and untidy and maybe a bit unsatisfactory if you're into things nicely all tied up and done and dusted - but that's exactly as it so often is.
And that's what makes it classic Scandinavian crime fiction for this reader, nothing is easy, often things can't be wrapped up and ticked off, people make decisions that have profound long-term effects and violence is never going to be the solution.
Can you ever come to terms with a missing child?
Julia Davidsson has not. Her five-year-old son disappeared twenty years previously on the Swedish Island of Öland. No trace of him has ever been found.
Until his shoe arrives in the post. It has been sent to Julia's father, a retired sea-captain still living on the island.
Soon he and Julia are piecing together fragments of the past: fragments that point inexorably to a local man called Nils Kant, known to delight in the pain of others.