Cover design: Rob Grom and Faceout Studios
Cover photo: Paul Vozdic/Getty Images (Girl)
and Roger Bamber/Alamy (Lighthouse)
JOHN AJVIDE LINDQVIST
Translated from Swedish by
Original title: Människohamn
Original title: Människohamn
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
First published: June 2008
This edition published: 11 October 2011
On the cover:
One ordinary winter afternoon on a snowy island, Anders and Cecilia take their six-year-old daughter Maja across the ice to visit the lighthouse in the middle of the frozen channel. While they are exploring the lighthouse, Maja disappears – either into thin air or under thin ice – leaving not even a footprint in the snow.
Two years later, Anders, a broken man, moves back to his family’s abandoned home on the island. He soon realizes that Maja's disappearance is only one of many strange occurrences, and that his fellow islanders, including his own grandmother, know a lot more than they’re telling. As he digs deeper, Anders begins to unearth a dark and deadly secret at the heart of this small, seemingly placid town.
This novel is almost entirely set on an island in Sweden. Outwardly it is an idyllic place, but under the surface there is a sinister secret.
Having grown up with Swedish TV, I am quite familiar with Swedish pop-culture. There are quite a few references to it in the book, but they are never intrusive and they function as Easter eggs that gives you a nostalgic smile if you are familiar with them. That being said, this is very much a Swedish book, the setting is 100% typical of Sweden, and although I have never been to a location such as is the setting of the book I am familiar with it through cultural osmosis.
If you are familiar with Scandinavian crime, you will recognise to some extent the type of setting this is. But you don't have to know anything about Sweden to get into this, Lindqvists setting is accessible to everyone. And it is a great setting for this story.
Lindqvist writes instantly compelling characters, and before you know it you are drawn into their lives. The main character, Anders, is complex and realistic. And around him is a set of very interesting supporting characters, some of which have stories that could fill a novel by themselves.
The story is a gripping one. What really stands out is the sense of an eerie creepiness that pervades the novel. Lindqvist's prose is perfect for conveying this type of psychological horror. And he manages to keep the reader in suspense for a very long time.
The opening mystery, interesting in itself, is soon shown to be a part of something much greater. But it takes time before what is really going on is revealed. Much of this is done through flasbacks that gradually feeds you with clues to what is going on. As the story progresses these revelations manages to raise the level of psychological horror.
The events just get creepier and creepier as the novel progresses. And the mystery gets more and more complex the more you find out about it. This makes it a book that is hard to put down, you get so dragged into the story that you just want to keep reading. But if you scare easily you may want to have the lights on when you go to sleep.
This is psychological horror at its best, if you like that this book is a must. And I would also recommend it to everyone that is a fan of Scandinavian crime and likes the setting and characters from that genre.
This is the first book by John Ajvide Lindqvist I have read, but I will be looking out for his books from now on. He's definitively an author every horror fan should read.
NOTE: A copy of the book was supplied to me by the publisher.
Links: John Ajvide Lindqvist St. Martins Press