When I had read Echoes from the Dead, I was not really expecting a taut thriller, with a sad and believable protagonist and a plot which racing between two time periods and an unlikely outcome, a twist in the very last pages. It kept me hooked up to the last page. I made the mistake of underestimating the book, and I was properly thrilled with its stature. And, then I made the mistake of over estimating The Darkest Room, and was not really thrilled by the book and its contents. Make no mistake of the fact, Johan Theorin is a great writer, and I still consider him a personal favourite, but somehow I guess he tried a little too hard to make this book exotic and in the process ended up in writing a book which neither could become a complete thriller nor a complete family drama.
The publishers note in my edition said, “In this powerhouse of suspense–at once a crime novel and a searing family drama…” So, from a purely crime fiction point of view I was sorely disappointed. The plot was not fast, it wasn’t well weaved, the crime never looked like a crime until almost 65% of the book had gone by, the criminal had, at most a total of 5 paragraphs dedicated to him and at the end neither did we get to know what was his fate. There was a subplot which at the end was revealed to be connected to the crime, but the sub plot was way too long and could have been shortened without causing any harm to the main plot. But I never skipped pages, because Theorin after all is a good writer. The book looked like a family drama, sounded like a family drama, read like a family drama, with a bit of supernatural thrown in. As for a work of crime fiction, it was not worth it.
The characters unlike the first book failed to make any mark on me. The semi-protagonist of Tilda Daviddsson gets way to little space to be fully developed, Joakim Westin also comes out as unfinished. His situation brings out sympathy but that’s not the credit of the writer. Reading about him made me bored, but thinking about a man who lost his wife made me sad. A character from the first book makes a cameo appearance and does the Mycroft Holmes thing by pointing out the crime, but sadly that doesn’t salvage the book. Even the old-new connection which worked so well in the last book failed this time. It was boring, and never felt remotely connected to the main plot.
Final verdict, this book, as a work of crime fiction doesn’t stand up. But as far as reading it like a family drama goes, there might be some merit. But then again why would a reader read Johan Theorin to read a family drama???