Johan Theorin – The Quarry

As the last snow melts on the Swedish island of Öland, Per Morner is preparing for his children’s Easter visit. But his plans are disrupted when he receives a phone call from his estranged father, Jerry, begging for help.

Per finds Jerry close to death in his blazing woodland studio. He’s been stabbed, and two dead bodies are later discovered in the burnt-out building.

The only suspect, Jerry’s work partner, is confirmed as one of the dead. But why does Jerry insist his colleague is still alive? And why does he think he’s still a threat to his life?

When Jerry dies in hospital a few days later, Per is determined to find out what really happened. But the closer he gets to the truth, the more danger he finds himself in.

And nowhere is more dangerous than the nearby quarry…

The Quarry was a slow starter; it took about a quarter of the book for it to finally take off and firmly draw me in. Partly this was due to the fact that the opening of the book wasn’t about Per at all, but about a character not mentioned in the flap text, but it was also due to the fact that the action as described in said flap text didn’t get going until a quarter of the book in. This doesn’t mean that the first quarter of the book was wasted, not at all, it just meant I had to (re)adjust to the somewhat more sedate pace that seems to typify a lot of Scandinavian crime.

The three separate story lines – Gerlof, Vendela and Per – are all interesting in their own way and I liked how they ended up intertwined, even if I was a little confused in the beginning when the book wasn’t about Per in the first chapter. The intertwining seems accidental at first, just the coincidences of living in a very small island village. But as the story progresses and we get to know all of our protagonists better, we find that the connections are far less tenuous than supposed at first glance.

While the book ends on a full-blown action sequence, a lot of its impact and focus is psychological in nature. For example, Per’s problems – past and present – with his dad, his worry and fear for his daughter Nilla, his worry about feeling disconnected to his son Jesper; Vendela’s problems due to her childhood and her belief in elves and Gerlof’s conviction that he won’t be long for this world due to his advanced age. All of these form the lines along which the novel progresses, without ever becoming too introverted or maudling. Instead, they are the impulses that spur the characters into actions and motivated their choices and decisions. The porn link is interesting and not as tawdry as it could have been, fortunately. While it’s one of the main components of the plot, it mainly focuses on the administrative side of it, so to speak, and on the results of rather naive health standards prevalent in the Seventies and early Eighties.

Again, The Quarry had a slow start but the book drew me in and then wouldn’t let go. The ultimate denouement was surprising and very smart, as it had been hinted at during the novel, but not telegraphed. In hindsight, it was easy to see all the puzzle pieces as they were laid out, but while I was reading the book I’d not spotted all the pieces needed to put everything together. The descriptions of Öland are super atmospheric, both in the present and the past. It felt like you would be able to recognise the environment if you were to visit the island. I liked that it felt calmer than most US or UK-based crime books. If you like the slow-burning and atmospheric nature of Scandinavian crime, The Quarry comes highly recommended.

This book was sent to me for review by the publisher.

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  • Eh. I think what ends up as a book's blurb has to do with what will get it published and read than anything else. Still, I would find it disconcerting. I love stories that slowly wend together as if several climbing plants have somehow become one tangled mess.

    I also like enough of the character's emotional landscapes so that we understand their choices are driven by those landscapes. That is a prime key to whether or not I will stick with a book. Well, that and whether anyone in it has a sense of humor.

    But this definitely looks like something I will want to check out.

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