In his first novel to be available in English, Spjut offers readers a substantial, menacing thriller that combines familiar elements of Scandinavian crime fiction with Swedish mythology.
In 1978, a young boy vanishes from a cabin in a forest and his mother insists he was taken by a giant. He's never found, but when another boy is kidnapped in the winter of 2004, the mysterious circumstances surrounding his disappearance convince a young woman named Susso Myrén that the stallo—the mysterious, dangerous trolls of Swedish and Lapp folklore—are somehow involved. Susso, dogged and likable, falls into the role of amateur investigator. With a photograph of a suspiciously inhuman-looking figure to lead her on, she throws herself into an increasingly dangerous search for information through the towns and landscapes of northern Sweden, accompanied only by her sympathetic mother and skeptical ex-boyfriend. The novel unfolds at a leisurely pace, shifting through several different viewpoints and lingering on details both attractive and grotesque, but the tension rarely loosens and the plot churns along with a satisfying interweaving of multiple threads. Sweden itself has an impressive presence in the novel, and Spjut is equally generous with his descriptions of the mundane—“snus,” the ubiquitous Swedish tobacco; the bizarre toppings on Swedish pizza—and the spectacular, pushing the reader into striking portraits of the Swedish landscape: “Hanging from the lean branches were mourning veils of lichen, and the icy crust of the birch bark glistened in the rays of the sun, which was already on its way down.” Woven into this solid, completely believable atmosphere, the supernatural elements of the story blend easily into the structures of crime fiction.
A disturbingly dark and strangely realistic novel of suspense and myth that will appeal to enthusiasts of both mysteries and more fantastical fiction.