Reviewed by Charles Harrison-Wallace in SBR 2013:S
Review Section: Fiction
The jacket blurb of this spare but unsettling novella pointedly asks: what happened? The sailing season is ending and the atmosphere is autumnal, nostalgic, regretful and elegiac. Three people feature in a triangular relationship, stretching back twenty years. Olof is a yacht-owning retired bank-manager. Harald is the former owner-manager of a small manufacturing company. At the beginning of the story, when his business had been suffering a serious downturn, he had sold his yacht and applied to Olof for a bank loan to tide him over. Harald and his estranged wife Elin were Roman Catholics. Elin took her religion seriously, but she and Olof had fallen in love. It seems that Harald had been granted the loan he needed, on condition that he agreed to divorce Elin, so that she could marry Olof.
Twenty years on, circumstances have changed, but memories remain. Two years ago, Elin had approached Harald to let him know that she wanted to re- marry him, perhaps as a form of spiritual penance for having earlier broken her marriage vows. Following Harald’s apparent refusal to accept her, she had crashed her car, and died. Harald, who has by now sold his business, is dying of a painful cancer. He and Olof have not communicated for the last twenty years.
With these facts established, the questions begin. Why did Olof and Harald decide to go sailing together? Olof is being interrogated by two police inspectors, in his home, and according to him, this excursion had been Harald’s idea. Harald had left the yacht when they harboured at an island and disappeared. After several hours looking for him, Olof had called the coastguard. Oddly, however, the police, who had turned up at Olof’s house on the very afternoon of Harald’s disappearance, produced an alleged letter from Harald claiming that the sailing trip had been Olof’s idea. But when exactly could this document, constituting the entire second half of the book, have been written? Why had Harald brought on board his father’s old army pistol? With two live bullets? Had Olof killed Harald? Had Harald planned to make it look as though Olof had killed him? Were either of the two men responsible for Elin’s death? There is no answer, and readers are left with an enigma to wonder over.