- Book: The Silver Road
- Location: Sweden
- Author: Stina Jackson
The Silver Road is the debut novel from Swedish author Stina Jackson. It was the recipient of the award for ‘The Best Swedish Crime Novel of the Year 2018’ and now, Corvus Books (Atlantic Books) have just published it, with the assistance of translator Susan Beard. The translation is absolutely seamless, maintaining the heightened sense of darkness and foreboding throughout.
Described as ‘an unforgettably atmospheric debut about a woman’s disappearance and a lonely man’s obsession with discovering the truth‘, it was a book that I knew I would easily get drawn into. Before I share my thoughts I must mention the cover of this book. It is just stunning. It catches the eye as you follow the meander of ‘the silver road’ wondering what journey you are about to be taken on, making it very enticing indeed.
Lelle is a man possessed. Three years ago his daughter, Lina, disappeared one morning, after he dropped her off at a bus stop. With absolutely no trace or clue left behind, the local police are at a loss and the case is running cold. Lelle is a teacher and for those summer months when the sun stays high in the sky for many hours due to a phenomenon known as ‘Midnight Sun’, Lelle patrols the roads in a wider reaching arc, all stemming from a road known locally as The Silver Road.
‘The midnight sun would drive people from their lairs and fill them with longing. They would laugh and make love and become crazy and violent. Some might even disappear. They would be blinded and disorientated. But he didn’t want to believe that they died.’
Lelle’s marriage has broken apart at the seams, as his dogged obsession with finding Lina drove his wife further away. During these nightly searches, fueled by cigarettes and caffeine, Lelle drives off-track travelling on obscure roadways and winding side-roads that take him into long forgotten homes holding the abandoned memories of families long gone. He searches every skip, under every bush determined to find some trace of Lina, while the world moves on around him.
Meanwhile Meja arrives in town with her mother following yet another pipe-dream. Meja’s mother, Silje, suffers mental health issues always dragging Meja to different towns searching for a place where they can live, where they can survive, a place they can call home. Meja finds herself moving into the home of a local man, Torbjorn, a man her mother is convinced will give them a roof over their heads and will keep them from starvation. Meja is used to dealing with her mothers medication and alcohol dependancy, but this latest move feels all wrong for Meja. The isolation, the dreariness is too stark and lonely making Meja feel incredibly uncomfortable.
‘The road in front of them narrowed and the forest crept closer, and a heavy silence filled the car. Meja found it hard to breathe as she watched the soaring pines flicker past. The two-storey building might have been impressive once, but now it’s red paint was peeling and it gave the impression of sinking into the ground…. It stank in there, too, of stale air and soot and ingrained fat. Shabby upholstery on furniture from a forgotten decade stared back at them. The brown striped wallpaper was hung with animal horns and knives in curved sheaths, more knives than Meja had ever seen….’
As the days pass, Meja steps beyond the perimeter in an attempt to escape the confines of this house that she must now call home. Meja wants company, kids her own age to chat to, to fill her miserable days, but this place is gloomy and isolating, leaving Meja initially frustrated.
Stina Jackson craftily knits together the stories of Lelle and Meja, both lost, both looking for something, both seeking the intangible. The bright Nordic sunshine remains in stark contrast to the darkness of the plot, as we travel the roads with Lella and we try to reach out to Meja.
The Silver Road is a very vivid and descriptive debut with a haunting aura that pulls the reader right in. It is a very evocative read, with some very powerful descriptions of the landscape and its people. There is a constant feeling of menace throughout as your mind casts doubt and misgivings on many of the characters as the story rolls on. It’s quite a claustrophobic read with suspicions rife as a bleakness creeps in around you.
The Silver Road is a mystery but it is also a very haunting tale with Stina Jackson’s writing style, and the environment, adding a certain beauty to the story. It would make for a very addictive TV series, with subtitles adding a real authenticity to the story….just saying!
Recommended if you like an alternative crime novel with an incredible atmospheric edge to it, one in which the setting is as important as the plot…