Book Review: The Asylum by Johan Theorin

Title: The Asylum
Author: Johan Theorin
Audio book narrator: Thomas Judd
Genre: Thriller
Date Read: 28/09/2017 – 13/10/2017
Rating: ★★


Heh. For a thriller, I did not find this book especially thrilling. I think some of that may have been due to a clunky translation from Swedish, but I think also it required more willing suspension of disbelief than I was willing to give it.

Jan Hauger takes a position at The Dell, a pre-school attached to St Patricia’s Psychiatric Hospital for the children of the patients’ parents. Jan wants to make contact with a person in his past who he believes is inside, and the other staff of the Dell have their own secrets and connections to the asylum as well.

Disclaimer: it’s possible the next paragraph won’t make much sense. I’ll try to be as coherent as possible.

This is the type of thriller where certain facts have to be revealed at certain times. They are things the characters already know, or even events in the characters’ past that he was present for, but if the reader knows about them, it ruins the suspense. As a result, the character sometime acts as though they aren’t aware of these things they lived through until it’s revealed to the reader. It annoys me when this happens. It’s poor writing.

Jan was an incredibly naive character and learning more about his past in the last third of the book didn’t really justify a lot of his choices to me. I just kept thinking “Well, you brought this upon yourself with all your stupid decisions, didn’t you?” I think the very ending was supposed to make me go “Oh no! After everything he’d been through!” but I just though, “Really? That’s the final punchline?”

It also didn’t make a lot of sense to me that a whole pre-school would be established next to a psych hospital when the children were only meeting with their parents one a week for an hour. The idea of having the passage between the hospital and the school seemed a lot of effort when they could probably just come with their foster parents to the front door.

Having said all that, there were a few honestly creepy moments. Mostly when Jan was creeping through the underground passage from the pre-school into the hospital. And one particularly claustrophobic chapter in Jan’s flashbacks. So it wasn’t all bad. Just mostly not really one I could get behind.

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