Tuesday 15 October 2013

The Asylum by Johan Theorin

'We don't talk about sick or healthy people at St Patricia's. Words such as hysteric, lunatic and psychopath... They are no longer used. Because who amongst us can say that we are always healthy?'

An underground passage leads from the Dell nursery to Saint Patricia's asylum. Only the children enter, leaving their minders behind. On the other side are their parents - some of the most dangerous psychopaths in the country.

Jan has just started working at the nursery. He is a loner with many secrets and one goal. He must get inside the asylum . . .

What is his connection with one of the inmates, a famous singer?

What really happened when a boy in his care went missing nine years ago?

Who can we trust when everyone has something to hide?

The Asylum is the first book that I've read by Johan Theorin; a Swedish author who has previously written a series of three books;  Echoes From The Dead (2008), Darkest Room (2009) and The Quarry (2011).

The Asylum was published in the UK by Doubleday, an imprint of Transworld Publishers on 14 March 2013.

Jan Hauger has seen a job vacancy that interests him; a classroom assistant is needed at The Dell, the nursery that is run by St Patricia's - a psychiatric hospital that is houses some of the most damaged individuals in Sweden.   Jan applies, and is successful, he starts his new job almost straight away and moves to live nearby.   It is clear from the beginning that it is not just the vacancy that appeals to Jan - he's a dark and mysterious character whose background appears to be less than salubrious.

Slowly, slowly, the author allows the reader to glimpse into Jan's thoughts.  This really builds up the dread and menace that pervades this novel, at times I felt a little bit afraid to turn the page, wondering just what is Jan's secret.    Jan is not the only character that has other reasons for working at St Patricia's or St Psycho as the hospital is known locally.  In fact, this is a cast of characters which seem to be made up of the mad, the lonely and the bitter.  

The translation from Swedish takes nothing away from the sense of horror that grows throughout the story, the pace builds and the incredibly good descriptions of the hospital add to the feeling of tension.   I'll admit that there may have been a coincidence or two along the way that felt a little contrived, but they did work overall.  

It's not a story to 'enjoy' as such, but the reading experience is great.   I'd certainly read more by this author.

My thanks to Leanne at Transworld who sent my copy for review.

Throughout his life, Johan Theorin has been a regular visitor to the Baltic Island of Ă–land. His mother's family - sailors, fishermen and farmers - have lived there for centuries, nurturing the island's rich legacy of strange tales and folklore.

A journalist by profession, Johan lives in Gothenburg, Sweden.  For more information about the author and his other novels visit his website  www.johantheorin.co.uk 


  1. I'm not usually too keen on translated books but this one sounds good. Thanks for reviewing.