Saturday, 28 January 2012

Johan Theorin's The Quarry

I highly recommend Johan Theorin's books - Echoes from the Dead, The Dark Room and, now, The Quarry. All set on the island of Oland, the place of Theorin's ancestors on his mother's side, the landscape and local culture are two main characters in his novels. The Quarry is a novel rich in folklore references and I found myself strangely accepting of the talk of elves and trolls; the deeply held beliefs of this island people and their connection to their environment act as an unusual channel through which the very real tale of sordid family histories and the associated murders plays out.
Per Morner has decided to settle on Oland having been left a cottage by his elderly relative, a Quarry man living on the edge of the alvar (an extensive limestone plain). His young daughter is gravely ill but he is distracted from all else by the death of three people, one of them his father (Jerry), whom he comes to realise are the victims of murder. His father's past is the catalyst for these events,  Jerry having been at the forefront of the Swedish porn industry some decades earlier.
Morner befriends a neighbour, Vendela, who has returned to the island of her birth. Her family history is sad and inextricably linked with the mythology that many islanders weave into their daily lives. Her explanation of events, from a young girl, as the actions of elves and trolls comes to dictate her every move and decision.
A favourite character is retired sea captain Gerlof Davidsson who checks himself out of a nursing home and takes up residence once again in his cottage that sits alongside Per Morner's home. He spends his days reading his late wife's diaries from the 1950s and, through these, begins to separate reality from mythology, and ultimately helps Per to both survive and find some solace.
A thoroughly engrossing and original story, Johan Theorin is an author of particular note among the community of contemporary Nordic crime writers.

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