Title: Echoes from the Dead
Author: Johan Theorin
Publisher: Delta Trade Paperbacks 
In the early 1970’s a young boy named Jens disappeared on a remote island in Sweden. Twenty years later his mother, Julia, and his grandfather, Gerlof, attempt to unravel the events surrounding the disappearance.
For want of a better word the book is literary in style, reminding me of David Guterson’s Snow Falling on Cedars in the way it depicts very personal events that take place in a wider historical context. It has the same haunting sense of location too. When done badly the kind of descriptive writing Theorin has produced is dull but when done well, as is the case here, it is as gripping as any action-based thriller. I was thoroughly captivated from the moment five year-old Jens climbed the garden wall and headed into the fog.
The structure of the novel is engaging too. The chapters are short and told from several different perspectives. Some are from Julia or Gerloff’s point of view and some take place in the past of Nils Kant, the man who it seems was responsible for Jens’ disappearance. This kind of leap-frogging between times and people can go badly awry but, again, Theorin has demonstrated superior writing skills in achieving a very understandable plot that is beautifully layered. But don’t be fooled: there’s plenty of real drama here too.
As good as all of those elements are, the characters in this book are even better. They’re complex and credible and I have such strong images of them all in my head that it’s like a movie playing. There’s nothing stereotypical about any of them and they continued to surprise me right to the very end. Julia, the middle aged nurse who struggled to deal with her son’s disappearance isn’t nearly as two-dimensional as the blurb makes her sound and Gerlof, her octogenarian father is an unlikely but wholly wonderful hero. The island of Oland too is a character in its way and is just as memorable and just as deftly depicted as the people.
As is often the way with the best crime fiction the book is about much more than solving the mystery. It’s about family and yearning and grief and people finding out that they’re tougher than they think. All of which combined to make it one of those rarest of reading experiences that makes me give thanks to the universe that there are people who write. I feel honoured to have discovered Echoes from the Dead.
My rating 5/5