I ALWAYS FIND YOU by John Ajvide Lindqvist (Translated from the Swedish by Marlaine Delargy)
Riverrun, 274 page HC, £16.00
Reviewed by Pauline Morgan
Budding authors are frequently told to write about what they know. This advice, while allowing a writer to gain experience and find their voice can also be a hindrance as for most of us our lives lack the excitement needed to hook a publishing deal. A know of one author who was told by her agent that she couldn’t make her viewpoint character a French priest because she was not French, a priest or male, therefore the character would be unbelievable. The author did it anyway – successfully. For some types of novel imagination has to come to the forefront of the writing process. It is possible, though, to build on experience and horror writers often use settings they are familiar with to create a background for the horror. Ramsey Campbell is a genius at doing this, as was Joel Lane.
John Ajvide Lindqvist came to the notice of the reading public with his novel Let the Right One In. It is set in the Blackeberg district of Stockholm, Sweden, the place where d grew up. In I Always Find You, Lindqvist gives his narrator the same background as himself, even down to the name. He grew up in Blackeberg but had moved into a small run-down apartment block in Stockholm itself with the hope of developing a career as a magician. \he spends hours practicing is skills. The homes are arranged around a courtyard and near the Brunkeberg Tunnel. Close by is the spot where the Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme was assassinated in 1986. The laundry room and shower room are separate from the main accommodation.
Although the life of the protagonist may mirror that of the author with real places and real events it is important to remember that this is not autobiography, it is a horror novel. In the ceiling of the shower room is a crack. Something begins to ooze through it. It reminds John of an episode in his childhood when he befriended a runaway boy. The black substance that drips from the ceiling is similar to that which crawled over the boy’s body. The shower room is closed off and initially, John resists joining his neighbours in their rituals in the room. For the price of blood, the substance transports to donor to a field where they take on an avatar of what they wish they were. This is a temporary bliss with a heavy price.
The novel is written as a confessional and is set in 1985/6 and covers the period including when Palme was shot. The perpetrator was never caught and there were many conspiracy theories. Lindqvist adds another dimension to the mystery.
Lindqvist is a fine writer (with an excellent translator) and is able to instil an unsettling disquiet into the everyday. The substance in the shower room appears to feed on the dreams and desires of ordinary people to their detriment. Whether it grants them, even briefly is not an issue as the process in seeking them out is addictive. This is a book that is highly recommended.
Postscript: As I finished writing this review, the Swedish police announced that they believed they knew who Olof Palme’s killer was. Since they do not have any new evidence for the statement, it does not invalidate Lindqvist’s writings.