When the tenant of a house that university professor Nina owns with her doctor husband goes missing after an uncomfortable visit, Nina starts her own investigation … with deeply disturbing results.
University professor Nina is at a turning point. Her work seems increasingly irrelevant, her doctor husband is never home, relations with her difficult daughter are strained, and their beautiful house is scheduled for demolition.
When she discovers that she and her husband still own a house she thought had been sold years earlier, things take a very dark turn. The young woman living there disappears, leaving her son behind, the day after Nina and her daughter pay her a visit.
With few clues, the police enquiry soon grinds to a halt, but Nina has an inexplicable sense of guilt. Unable to rest, she begins her own investigation, but as she pulls on the threads of the case, it seems her discoveries may have very grave consequences for her and her family.
Hi and welcome to my review of The Seven Doors!
Reading an Agnes Ravatn novel is like standing perfectly still in the middle of a snowy landscape: this dreamlike quality, understated, quiet, subdued, yet somehow simultaneously incredibly vibrant. It was what I expected from The Seven Doors after reading The Bird Tribunal, and still it caught me unawares. It’s thrillers like these, I think, that have ruined me for the blatant in-your-face thrillers that I used to love so much.
The Seven Doors is told from the POV of Nina, literary scholar, university professor, wife, grandmother. Usually steering well clear of the spotlight, she makes a public and rather bold statement that literary scholars should do something important, like work with the police: who better equipped to interpret witness statements and the intricacies of police cases. No sooner has she announced this or she gets caught up in an investigation herself.
Nina’s daughter Ingeborg is dead-set on moving into a house that Nina’s husband has been renting out for years. When Nina and Ingeborg come knocking, the young woman who lives there with her three-year-old son acts a bit funny and rather aloof. Nina and Ingeborg make nothing of it, until they find out a few days later that the woman has gone missing. Nina becomes quite obsessed with the case, especially when she realises that she knew the woman, and not just as a tenant.
The Seven Doors crept up on me, crawling under my skin until I realised I was unable to walk away and I ended up reading most of it in one sitting. It is not one to race through though. I’m usually a fast reader but I had to slow down for this one. It is too subtle for any kind of speed-reading, I needed to slow down to catch its subtleties, its intricacies, but also to let it work its magic.
My perspective changed during the course of the story, everything went topsy-turvy and when I’d reached the end, I hated the character I’d started out liking, and I admired the character I’d hated at first.
Tiny clues are left like breadcrumbs, but like Hansel and Gretel I lost my way. It was the weirdest thing, I recognised them as clues, I just couldn’t put them together, so the finale came as quite a shock, and only in hindsight all the clues made sense.
It took me a minute to get into the story, to get used to the pace, but then I was all in. I loved the slow burn, the feeling of impending doom while being unsure which corner the blow would come from. I adored the folkloric elements, the fairy tales, the tale of Bluebeard’s Castle, the Freudian references, and the manner in which all these threads are woven together in one coherent piece when one would expect a patchwork quilt.
The Seven Doors is an intelligent, mesmerising, slow-burning thriller with a level of noir that goes by unnoticed for a large part of the story until you suddenly realise it was there all along. I loved it, and if Nordic Noir is your bag, I think you will too!
Huge thanks to Orenda Books for the review copy! All opinions are my own.