Another atmospheric neogothic yarn, drenched in Scandinavian anxiety and lots of gore, by horror-meister Lindqvist (Handling the Undead, 2010, etc.).
Not overtly creepy at first, at least not in the spine-tingling way of Lindqvist’s debut, the great Let Me In (2007), this latest outing takes its time building up a head of steam—or, better, a head of extremely bad vibes. Lennart Cederström, folksinger, musicologist and amateur mycologist, is wandering about in a boreal forest looking for chanterelles, that being the sort of thing one does in a socialist paradise. He finds, instead, a small, shallow grave and inside it, “a baby girl, just a few days or weeks old.” Lennart rescues the baby, noting that her crying was like nothing his attentive ears had ever taken in—and pitched at a perfect E, “an E that rang like a bell and made the leaves quiver and the birds fly up from the trees.” You’ll be forgiven for wanting to tell Lennart, right now, to run away, since a baby so vocally equipped is likely to have other eldritch powers; but he does not run, and instead, he hides the baby away in the depths of his well-oiled and well-scrubbed apartment, where he lives with his dissatisfied, adulterous wife. They have a creepy kid already, but he’s been living away from home for years. “At some point during Jerry’s worst years, Lennart had wished his son dead,” Lindqvist writes, meaningfully. When the mayhem begins and the blood starts spurting, things do indeed move in fatal directions. But there’s more than mere mass murder in these pages; in between spasms of the supernatural, Lindqvist charts the parallel transformation of a lonely teenage girl whom Theres, now a singing sensation, has taken it upon herself to protect. Teenage angst, psychopathy, Eurovision and wild wolves: What more could you want?
The story is complicated, and it doesn’t always add up. When it does, though, it’s enough to make you put your fingers over your eyes. Good, spooky fun.