Julia Davidsson’s five-year-old son died 20 years ago on the island of Öland off the coast of northern Sweden. They searched for him for a while, but it was foggy, and everyone (from the police down to Julia) assumed he was out wandering and drowned in the sea. However, for the past 20 years, Julia has not been able to get over her grief for her son, Jens. This has cost her her relationship with Jens’ father, her job, her relationship with her father and sister, and nearly her sanity.
Then one day, her father, Gerlof, calls saying that he received what he thinks is Jens’ sandal in the mail, which opens up the possibility that Jens didn’t drown, but rather was killed. And Gerlof thinks everything points to Nils Kant — someone who “died” before Jens was born — as the person who did it.
It’s a quiet mystery — more about grief and closure than an actual “whodunit” — as we follow Julia through her process of acceptance and discovery. Gerlof, who has lived on the island his entire life, and who knows practically everyone, does most of the detective work, trying to figure out what really happened. Nils Kant’s history is also explored through flashbacks; in order to understand what happened to Jens, the reader has to understand Nils’ motivations. I expected this book to be more graphic than it was, especially considering the subject matter. But Theorin spends less time on the actual killings (and there are multiple ones), and more on the process of grieving and of coming to terms with what life deals you.
Mystery fans won’t be disappointed, though: there are a couple of twists near the end that turn most of what you thought was going to happen on its head, and allow for some decent closure. That said, I found the book highly unemotional, almost clinical. The characters and situations were interesting, but didn’t really evoke a lot of emotional connection with me. Perhaps, though, this was for the best, since I don’t usually deal well with crime novels.
At least it had a somewhat happy ending.
Rated: Moderate — there are exactly five F-bombs, and the subject matter is fairly disturbing.