One foggy afternoon in 1972, a little boy went missing on the Swedish island of Öland. Twenty years later, his mother, Julia Davidsson, is still trying to come to terms with the loss of her son. She has left Öland and is living alone in Gothenburg, depressed, drinking too much and barely speaking to her elderly father, Gerlof. One day she receives an unexpected telephone call from her father, who now lives in an old people’s home on the island, saying he has received new evidence regarding the disappearance: one of the sandals little Jens was wearing on that fateful day. Julia immediately returns to Öland and together she and Gerlof attempt to discover what really happened to Jens.
Gerlof believes his grandson may have been abducted by Nils Kant, a notorious criminal who fled Öland at the end of the Second World War. But Nils Kant is known to have died in the 1960s – his body was sent back to the island from Costa Rica and is now buried in the churchyard there – so how could he possibly have been involved in the events of 1972?
Echoes from the Dead has all the ingredients of a great crime novel: a gripping, well-structured plot, believable characters and an atmospheric setting. I thought the pacing was perfect – slower at the beginning and steadily building in suspense and tension towards the end. Although I didn’t guess the solution to the mystery, I’m not sure whether it would have been possible to work it out before the final chapter anyway – there were some surprising twists towards the end that were completely unexpected.
There were three main characters: Julia, Gerlof and Nils Kant. I didn’t find Julia very engaging, but I loved Gerlof and his stubborn determination to do things in his own way and on his own terms. Nils Kant’s story unfolds slowly through a series of flashbacks interspersed with the present day storyline and I found him another intriguing character. And the Swedish island of Öland is almost a character in itself. Beautiful but cold and lonely, it provided a wonderful setting for the novel. Despite never having been to Öland (or any part of Sweden) Theorin’s descriptions of this island were so vivid I could visualise exactly what it must look like.
I’m glad I’ve now discovered Johan Theorin and am looking forward to reading his second book set on Öland, The Darkest Room.
I received a copy of this book from Transworld as part of their Great Crime Caper.