The Tunnel by Carl-Johan Vallgren
Quercus (June 2017)
336 pages; $18.35 hardback; $12.99 e-book
Reviewed by Dave Simms
For those who haven’t read any thrillers set in Scandinavian countries, please start here. This is pure horror even before the story kicks into gear. The setting contains more darkness found in most contemporary American or British horror and brings to mind the beautiful terror of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo series, but it has its own personality, one which will make many readers a fan of the genre.
Vallgren’s story hits hard, aiming for the psyche of anyone who has spent time in the darkness, whether literally or psychologically. In a country which appears as a storybook vacation for those who have watched the videos of the Northern Lights, the quaint harbors, fjords, and mountainsides, Sweden has another side to it, like most places. Stockholm primarily carries with it horrors which many Westerners would have difficulty imagining.
Enter into the story a private investigator who had a promising career as a military intelligence officer. Danny Katz lost it all to heroin and is now working alongside his demons as he rebuilds his life in a world which forever nudges him into the shadow. When his former drug dealer is murdered, he crawls into the Swedish underworld, starkly written, with another investigator who is just as addled with her own demons, to solve the mystery. What they find is something darker than expected. The porn industry looms large and more evil than expected, with its sex trade tearing girls from society but also exploring the neo-nazi movement that threatens to upend the lush exterior of the country.
With many novels from the region, the translation can either make or break the novel. It has been carefully worked here with The Tunnel and Vallgren’s nightmarish visions feel natural on the page.
Well worth a read this summer and this author should be added to any dark fiction or thriller reader’s list.