This is an Easter read from the list of seasonal reading on Janet Rudolph’s site. “The Quarry” by Johan Theorin is set on a Swedish island, and as the spring sea-ice is melting, people return to the island for the summer. Among them is Per Morner, whose father Jerry is sinking into dementia, and whose daughter is in hospital on the mainland. When Jerry’s former studio burns down, Per comes to the realisation that his father’s past is more dubious than he had expected. His neighbours have troubles, and histories, of their own, including Vendela, who grew up on the island and has returned with her husband Max to write his latest cookbook.
The novel sets out many of the classic country crime features: the tension between incomers and long-standing residents, the fear of development, the long-held secrets of the residents, and their sense of shared history, together with an appreciation of nature, in this case the alvar and the sea. Theorin is good at creating dislikeable characters, with Max the self-absorbed egotist a prime example. However, I found it harder to work out which characters I was supposed to empathise with, since he presented a good number of points of view to begin with, and no murder until well into the book. I feel guilty for not loving it, like someone ending a bad relationship, saying “It’s not you, it’s me”. This is well-written, and intricately plotted, and the pace never sagged, and yet… it’s not Theorin, it’s definitely me that’s at fault.
PS In case anyone was wondering, the “alvar” is an area of limestone pavement, such as that found in the Yorkshire Dales, but the name sounds as though it should be elf-related. The characters spend a lot of time trotting about on it.