Book review

The Darkest Room – Johan Theorin

Imagine a bitterly cold Swedish winter, on the bleak treeless coastal island, in an old manor house built from the wood of a wrecked ship in which scores of sailors drowned, where one’s only neighbours are 2 lighthouses, one of which no longer works and is haunted. Is there any better location for a thriller/murder mystery?


I’d not heard of this author before, but I have had more opportunity to read lately and picked up this Swedish novel, set on the very real Swedish island of Oland, in mythical locations. This is the world that the character, Joakim Westin has recently moved to, with his family of wife and two small children. The grand plans to renovate and rejuvunate the manor house is destroyed when shortly after their move, one of the family drowns not far from the house.

Joakim struggles to come to terms with the death, while others on the island become immersed in a struggle of their own. One is a young female police officer finding her feet in a new beat, and another is a young man involved in petty crimes, who becomes haunted by his the results of his misdemeanors. As Christmas approaches, a sageful relative of the police officer tells of an old Swedish folk tale where the dead come back to visit the living on the darkest night of the year. What does this mean for Joakim, and his family, isolated in the manor house during one of the worst blizzard’s of the decade?

Atmosphere by the bucketload is what you get from Theorin’s spine- tingling novel. Whilst it remains a murder mystery, those who like supernatural touches or ghostly happenings would get their kicks from the story. Theorin weaves a mystery into believable occurrences, yet manages to get the reader to sympathize with the bereaved man and remain hungry for the next chapter.

Theorin also gets into the head of the protaganist and takes the reader on a psychological journey of grief. Themes of retribution/karma also simmer under the surface when it becomes clear what happened to Ethel.


Despite a head splitting migraine, I was determined to finish the book, such was the effect this story had on me. Be warned….

The good: Dark windswept landscape expertly described. You are there in the blinding snow along with the characters.

The bad:   Would a father leave his children alone?

The ugly:  Depiction of alcoholic tarts…….

Rating out of 10: 9


43 thoughts on “The Darkest Room – Johan Theorin”

      1. Well the gravatar is light blue and stood out so not sure if it took astute skill – ha
        I am not a huge fiction reader – just classic literature when I did – (I prefer non fiction but but would like them a lot of I did start reading fiction – which I can see happening in years to come)

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Non fiction is a better topic to read. I like figuring how whodunnit. I would not read very much other types of fiction at all. The funny thing is, that I can’t or don’t want to read True Crime. The fact that I am solving a fictional puzzle is okay. Reading about murders that really happened would not be a pleasant pastime at all.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I agree – reading about the details in some of these real-life murders am be dark, heavy, and almost sensationalism –
            Reminds me of a story about a show I watched years ago – it was called “airplane disasters” and I had the series recorded – someone judged there show by its title and said something critical about it- so then I shared why I liked the show –
            It was really more about the detective work about how they discovered what caused the accident – sometimes pilot error (a pilot had just flown a different aircraft and then hit the wrong pedal – which led to a change in legislation for some pilots and how many types of aircraft they can fly in a time frame) other times an inspection was overlooked or their was a manufacturer flaw in a part – so it was more of a detective science show as they worked back from the accidents.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Oh, Yvette, I know that show. It is one of my husband’s favourite shows to watch as it on free to air TV at the moment. It is actually quite interesting and I like to watch it when he is viewing it. It often is something seemingly insignificant to start with that leads to a chain of errors. Great watching. Have you only seen one, as I think there are a few series. My husband even watches the repeats shows.

              Liked by 1 person

            2. Hi – i think I watched them all – ha – but it was at least a few years ago – and when I rode the recumbent bike and watched shows – double
              Win – I just have my indoor bike away because I used it twice a year – if that -but years ago I used it five times a week – and was able to explore some great shows.
              Glad you can catch some of the show as your hubs watches – and extra cool that it airs free

              Liked by 1 person

            3. Well I regret giving it away – but I go to the yoga classes –
              Do kettlebell or walk (make that want to walk outdoors more with the hubs) I might get one at another time – but not into cycling that much and maybe it felt like more sitting ?

              Liked by 1 person

            4. The pedal trainer has siuddenly gained popularity here one can watch TV and exercise. The funny thing is that I have had so trouble with my back since I started with the pedal trainer. That is not good. Nit sure if it is connected but I have given it a break for a while.

              Liked by 1 person

            5. Thanks for mentioning the pedal
              Exerciser – I think I will try one sometime this year – and good to give your back a break.
              As you know – and what I have learned is sometimes when we are making an area stronger it could be uncomfortable because we are fortifying an area.
              Both my husband and I hurt when we first started doing the kettlebell workout with Chi Chi – I had to rest 8 days in between – but now it is all good.
              And check your posture with the pedaler – it might sound obvious but if you are sitting at a weird angle it could cause stress


  1. Ah – the ‘Northern Noir’ ! I’ve read many a novel from this genre that brings the supernatural into the story: those Scandinavian crime writers love to do it ! 🙂
    Did I ever ask you, she said almost totally irrelevantly, if you read the entire Wallander series – including the final one ? It made me so angry that I threw it on the floor.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I don’t think you asked me that and I don’t think I have rrad the final Wallander book but I have seen all the series on the wonderful SBS. Did you read the book Mankell wrote set in Africa? Very different. I think I might have posted about it here, years back. What did you think of the British version of Wallander, Margaret Rose? I was not a fan. The Swedish shows were much better.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s been ages since I read a book, Amanda! This one sounds very interesting to me. I will look it up! Scandinavians are so good at producing crime/mystery thrillers aren’t they. Sorry to hear that you have migraine 😦 My mum has it too so I know how bad it can be..

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I am feeling a lot better now, Pooja. Thanks so much for your well wishes. That is very kind. I hope you like the book. Snow said that there is also a part 2 – so keep an eye out for that. What genre did you used to read?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I never read regularly or passionately, Amanda. But I generally enjoy travel themed and crime themed novels. I thought I’d enjoy non-fiction, but I tend to get bored easily. Yesterday however I downloaded and started reading “The Gift of Fear” by Gavin de Becker , it’s really interesting so I think I’ll finish it.

        Liked by 1 person

          1. It’s about a powerful tool we humans most often underestimate but what can save us from fear and danger: intuition. It’s targeted mostly towards women how they can save themselves from danger (from violent men mostly) so it’s a fascinating read for me. And a lot of new info too.

            Liked by 1 person

  3. I read part two for some reason (without reading part one). This was several years ago and I had to check my Goodreads notes, written primarily for myself in order to remember whether I liked a book or not! This is what I’d written (in 2015) :”So dark (and I must admit, spooky) that I couldn’t bring myself to read any more of his work, even though this book was very well composed.” I gave it 4/5 stars so I must’ve liked it – I’m quite a critical reader! (Ps. Migraines suck! Hope you’re well!)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for that Snow, and funny that you read the same book some years back. I wasn’t aware that there was a part two, so I’ll keep an eye out for that at the library/bookshop. I don’t post anything on Goodreads but you have given me the thought that I should. Especially since I just discovered that a book I just bought was one I had already read about 10 years ago! Dawned on me when Igot to page 2!!! Yet I didnt recognize the title nor the cover! It was one of Camilla Lackberg’s novels. Have you read any of her works?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I read The Ice Princess and Goodreads tells me I didn’t like it: one star. I didn’t read anything else from her after that. But I can recommend GR! If not for writing reviews, just to keep track. Also to find books. I like to check out what other people (strangers) wrote in their reviews after I’ve read a book to see if we agreed!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I have read a lot of Camilla’s books but they are a light read. Not in the realm of writers like Nesbø. And a bit similar to some other stories of detective couples. However, because I had read them, it made my visits to the Swedish Bohuslan coast so much fun. You might see a photo from there this Friday 😉

          Liked by 1 person

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