Book Review · Reading Challenges

Book Review : Echoes from the Dead by Johan Theorin.

On the Swedish island of Öland, a little boy has gone missing.

It happened twenty years ago, and although his mother, Julia, and her family searched everywhere, no trace of him was ever found.

Until today, when his shoe arrives in the post. It has been sent to Julia’s father, a retired sea-captain still living on the island.

Soon, he and Julia are piecing together fragments of the past: fragments that point inexorably to Nils Kant, known to delight in the pain of others. But Nils Kant died during the 1960s. So who is the stranger seen wandering across the fields as darkness falls?

It soon becomes clear that someone wants to stop Julia’s search for the truth. And that he is much, much closer than she thinks. . .

I read Echoes from the Dead as my third book for The Great Transworld Crime Caper. I hadn’t heard of Johan Theorin before seeing the book on the list for the challenge, but the synopsis sounded intriguing and the fact that it won the CWA Best First Crime Novel in 2009 encouraged me to make it one of my picks.

The book is set on the Swedish island of Öland, Julia left after the disappearance of Jens, her son, twenty years ago but Gerlof, her father, has remained on the island. When he receives what he thinks is Jens’ shoe Julia returns and the two of them get involved in trying to solve the case. Whilst this is going on there is a secondary plot featuring Nils Kant, Gerlof’s main suspect. This tells the story of how a young boy grows up to become a man feared by the island, capable of murder.

I have to admit I didn’t really like many of the characters in the book. I found them hard to identify with and as a result didn’t really feel invested in their stories. Gerlof in particular infuriated me, his habit of keeping secrets made me want to shake him on a number of occasions. I did find Julia to be a well created character, and maybe if I was a parent I would have been able to identify with her more – I certainly saw similarities between her and a family member who lost a child.

I did really like the way the two story lines wove around one another. Nils’ storyline was probably more interesting, but I did find that I’d predicted virtually the whole last section of his story, along with the main story. As I’ve already said I didn’t find the characters easy to engage with and so I did at times find it hard to keep going with the book.

I’m really sad to have ended my challenge with a book I didn’t enjoy very much. I think it’s probably more to do with the fact that I wasn’t the right audience for the book than anything else.

Echoes of the Dead is published in paperback by Black Swan in the UK priced £7.99. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book all of the opinions expressed are my own.

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