This month, my book club read was Stallo written by Swedish author Stefan Spjut. Translated by Susan Beard this is a supernatural thriller which tells the story of two mysteries, twenty five years apart, and the strange events that may link them…
“There was something wrong with them,” she says…”They were sick. Do you understand?”
The novel opens with events taking place in 1978 when a young boy, Magnus Brodin, disappears from the summer cabin which he stayed in with his mother. His mother claims he was taken by a giant but no-one believes her and the boy is never found. Over twenty five years later another woman claims that a strange creature has been watching her and her young grandson. At this point we meet Susso Myren, a woman who inspired by her father’s own experiences has dedicated her life to searching for those creatures whose existence has not yet been proven. Susso visits this woman, Edit Mickelsson, and begins her quest to find out who or what is responsible, and more importantly, what it wants from her grandson Mattias.
‘She had come too close. Others might have suspected something in the past, but this was different.’
From the start, Spjut builds up the atmosphere and creates a growing sense of unease which was very effective. I was immediately intrigued and keen to get to the bottom of the mystery surrounding both incidents. As Susso, with a little help from her mother and partner, begins to search for answers we also meet various other characters and gradually see how they fit into these bizarre events. Whilst I found the opening 100 pages or so gripping I must admit there reached a point where my interest in the story wavered a little. The book is just short of 600 pages in length and I felt it could have been a bit shorter. That said it is certainly an interesting story that combines multiple genres. It features elements of a crime thriller along with elements of horror and fantasy. I liked the alternating settings as the story switched between characters and there was the intrigue surrounding the creatures themselves, and the woodland creatures who may not be all they seem…
‘Every so often he caught a glittering pair of eyes that slid away…’
I enjoyed Stallo and found it to be an unusual read which would appeal to a variety of readers with its fascinating premise and interesting cast of characters. It is an atmospheric thriller with a blend of local myths and folklore and what happens when the human world crosses paths with the supernatural.