Echoes From The Dead by Johan Theorin

Many years ago a small boy disappeared. He climbed over his parents’ garden wall and disappeared into the mist.

Now, twenty years on, the first piece of evidence has come to light. A new investigation begins.

A simple story, but Johan Theorin builds on it very well indeed.

He builds characters.

First there’s Julia. it was her son, Jens, who disappeared. She has never come to terms with her loss, never learned to live with it. She was already separated from her husband, and her refusal to accept that her son must be dead has left her estranged her from her family and friends and unable to return to her job as a nurse. She is in every way a woman alone.

And she is utterly believable. Infuriating and understandable in equal measure.

There is her father, Gerlof, struggling with the problems of old age and missing the respect and camaraderie he enjoyed in his working life.

Gerlof receives a child’s shoe in the post. Jens’ shoe. He calls his daughter, and a new investigation begins.

Who is responsible? Local people have alway blamed Nils Kant, a local man with a dark reputation, even though he was dead and buried before the child disappeared. Rumours persist. That another body is buried in the graveyard. That Nils Kant has returned.

And so two stories are told.

The first is the story of an investigation, of a mother’s dawning realisation that her child is lost to her, and of a father and daughter struggling to rebuild their relationship.

The second is the story of Nils Kant, of what lay behind the events that blackened his name, of what happened to him when he left his homeland.

Both are complex human stories, and both are very well executed.

And compelling – each time I stopped reading I was surprised at how many pages had gone by.

The atmosphere is dark, the sense of place is palpable, and the construction of the story is oh so clever. Particularly the conclusion, which comes quite naturally out of the story without ever feeling predictable.

I’m still thinking about this book, and I’m looking forward to Johan Theorin’s second novel too. It’s already in my library pile!

Translated by Marlaine Delargy

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