Johan Theorin takes a step away from the island of Öland, the setting of his previous novels, to present this even darker thriller. Its main character is Jan Hauger, a young man whose version of events isn’t always to be trusted.
Jan is a child care worker who takes a job at a preschool attached to a mental asylum. The preschool is for the children of the inmates, to allow the children to see their parents regularly. Although Jon cares about the welfare of the children, it is clear early on that he has other reasons for being there.
One thing we soon find out about Jan is that as a young man he kept a little boy captive for several hours. We don’t learn why for some time.
Jan has an interest in getting into the asylum, for he believes a woman he once knew as a girl is inside. He has been captivated by thoughts of her for years. Soon, he finds there are ways into the asylum from the preschool.
The asylum has some famous inmates, the most renowned of whom is the serial killer Ivan Rössell. When Jan accepts an unauthorized but seemingly harmless task of secretly delivering mail into the asylum so that the guards can distribute it to the inmates, he finds that Rössell gets the bulk of this mail. But Jan also sees a way to get a message to his friend.
As Jan’s story emerges in three different time streams, we begin to feel his judgment may be impaired. There is something dangerous going on that he is unaware of. As usual, Theorin’s book is atmospheric and compelling.