The Quarry, by Johan Theorin
The Quarry (original Swedish title Blodläge) is the third book in the crime fiction series about the four seasons on Öland by Johan Theorin, the Swedish author who won the 2010 Crime Writer Association International Crime Novel prize for his novel The Darkest Room. As with the previous books in the series, this too is set on the mysterious Baltic island of Öland – an idyllic place where well-to- do Swedes spend their summer vacations, enjoying the long summer nights, the serene beauty of the island and the quiet atmosphere.
In each of the novels, the island, with its history and its legends, plays a prominent part. And so does the retired sailor Gerlof Davidsen, 83 years old and starting to feel his age, but still a very interesting character.
Gerlof lives close to the quarry. The quarry is a place where trolls and elves – according to the old folk tales on the island – once fought a huge battle, and as a result there is a thick red layer in the rocks in the quarry from all the blood that flowed in the battle.
The Quarry is the spring book in the Seasons series. On Öland, the days are getting longer, the sun is shining again, and the people on the island are starting to prepare for the summer. Vendela Larsson has grown up on Öland, and then moved away. Now she has returned with her husband Max, an egotistical fellow who is the author of a series of books about motivation, and a controlling and very jealous character. Vendela believes elves are real – she has believed in them for a long time, for good reasons. And if there is any place on earth where elves are likely to exist, it is on Öland.
Per Mörner does market research and is a newcomer on the island. He has inherited his uncle’s old cottage near the quarry in Stenvik. While he is preparing for his children’s Easter visit, he receives a phone call from his estranged father, Jerry, who wants his help. Per has for a long time tried to distance himself from his father, as he is ashamed of him. Jerry is a former producer of pornographic magazines and used to be one of the big names in the Swedish porn industry.
Now the old man is ill and can hardly talk. Per takes off to help his father and manages to get there in the nick of time. The house has been set on fire, and his father is lying close to the entrance, stabbed by a knife and mumbling something. Per manages to save his father, but two other people die in the fire. It seems the fire has been started to kill his father. Who wants to kill his father, an old man who is now out on the sidelines? What is the motive? There is hardly anything left of his father’s pornography empire, so money is not likely to be the motive.
Increasingly and reluctantly, Per gets entangled in the case and is forced to look into his father’s old affairs. When Jerry dies after being deliberately run down by a car, Per feels compelled to launch his own investigation, despite the fact that his daughter is re-admitted to hospital with cancer, waiting for a critical and risky operation.
Meanwhile Gerlof, curious as always and unable to resist getting involved in a mystery, has been watching his new neighbors and pondering. Soon it is clear to him that all is not what it seems – that there are hidden secrets and lies all around. And Vendela finds that the elves may not be quite the friendly and caring creatures she had assumed. As the net tightens, and as they start to get closer to the truths, the more danger they will find themselves in. And the most dangerous place of all is the quarry.
The plot in The Quarry is intriguing and delightful. Johan Theorin gently, gently pushes the plot forward along several lines of action, all the time masterfully building suspense. As the other books in the series, this too is excellently written with well-drawn and interesting characters. Old secrets, tales and myths are used to create an atmosphere that is full of mystique, is intriguing and feels dense. When the mysteries of past are revealed, they turn out to have deep implications for the present.
I liked The Quarry very much, and thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Johan Theorin is a master when it comes to creating striking, “thick” atmospheres in his books. It’s a long book, but still much to short. If you get my drift.