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 her daughter decides to move into another house they own, 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.
Exquisitely dark and immensely powerful, The Seven Doors is a sophisticated and deeply disturbing psychological thriller from one of Norway’s most distinguished voices.
I love the setup of this novel, which I think is deceptively simple. It begins with Nina who with her daughter, Ingeborg, pays a visit to her tenant who is currently renting a house that Nina’s husband inherited from an aunt. Ingeborg has her eye on the house, convinced it’s the perfect option for her own growing family, and their visit is difficult as Ingeborg comes across as aggressive and unsubtle about her intentions. The tenant, Mari, serves notice and leaves almost immediately after their visit. Nina regrets the situation and seeks to put it behind her, only to discover that Mari has since been reported missing. With idle curiosity, Nina begins to investigate, but becomes increasingly concerned, convinced that the police have wrongly dismissed the case when they find no evidence of wrongdoing. What follows is an intriguing psychological thriller as Nina investigates Mari’s disappearance, her attention shifting between the various individuals that might have been involved, jumping from theory to theory as she learns more about Mari and her situation.
Nina herself is going through a period of turmoil, and I think that her investigation into Mari’s disappearance begins as a way of distracting herself from her own concerns. Her childhood home that she shares with her husband is set to be demolished, and she’s distraught at the idea of having to move elsewhere. Her relationship with Ingeborg is difficult – and from the scene with Mari, I believe this to be because Ingeborg herself is difficult – and she is becoming increasingly disillusioned with her job as a professor of literature, convinced that her students spend their time in her lectures browsing the internet. At 61, she’s a little older than the protagonists I usually encounter, and I found it incredibly refreshing to read a realistic portrayal of a vibrant woman at that stage of her life She is a likeable character and yet one who is flawed, both as a person and as an investigator, but in a way that makes her relatable. I enjoyed her Nancy Drew escapades, and I wanted her to solve the mystery of Mari’s disappearance.
The Seven Doors is an intelligent thriller and I enjoyed the nod to Greek tragedy that works as a theme throughout the narrative. I did find that it relied a little on exposition at times to put across some ideas, but I enjoyed seeing the story unfold despite this. I felt that this novel had a slower pace than other psychological thrillers that I’ve read, but I for one appreciated this – it felt more realistic than other, similar novels, with no over the top scenes that the reader must suspend their disbelief for. Highly recommended for those wanting an intelligent read with an intriguing mystery and a realistic protagonist.
The Seven Doors will be published on 17 September by the wonderful Orenda Books. Many thanks to the publisher and to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for the opportunity to read and review The Seven Doors ahead of publication, and for the invitation to join the blog tour.
About the Author
Agnes Ravatn (b. 1983) is a Norwegian author and columnist. She made her literary début with the novel Week 53 (Veke 53) in 2007. Since then she has written three critically acclaimed and award-winning essay collections: Standing still (Stillstand), 2011, Popular Reading (Folkelesnad), 2011, and Operation self-discipline (Operasjon sjøldisiplin), 2014. In these works, Ravatn revealed a unique, witty voice and sharp eye for human fallibility. Her second novel, The Bird Tribunal (Fugletribuanlet), was an international bestseller translated into fifteen languages, winning an English PEN Award, shortlisting for the Dublin Literary Award, a WHSmith Fresh Talent pick and a BBC Book at Bedtime. It was also made into a successful play, which premiered in Oslo in 2015. Agnes lives with her family in the Norwegian countryside.
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