I really enjoy Swedish writers, and I must admit that of all the short stories I have been reviewing so far, ‘The Music of Bengt Karlsson, Murderer’ has been the first to actually creep me out. And in fact linger, like the notes of a piano concerto.
This tale is about a widowed husband who has recently moved into a house with a son, Robin, who will do nothing more than play video games. Whilst the father thinks there is nothing worse than a game-warped mind, it turns out that bribing your only son to play the piano for a rest, for culture, and because it belonged to his dead mother, turns out to be actually much worse for their health.
In this story, Linqvist’s characterisation is strong and the pace is well kept, even with the slight jumps in time frame (which perhaps help the pace a little more). Linqvist has written what appears to be a traditional ghost story (I haven’t read many so feel free to disagree with me), which is dark enough to make me double check what I have read and to have notes lingering in my skull as if I have heard the piano played without even knowing the score.
I don’t enjoy the fact that for the translation there are two different spellings of Karlsson’s first name. I am unsure if there is a reason for it, and I know that it sounds like a knit-pick, but I didn’t enjoy the shift and was unsure if there was a point to it or not. However, that isn’t to take away from this tale that heightens in its dark, looming nature of how much control humans actually have when the dead are involved.
Check out ‘A Book of Horrors’ edited by Stephen Jones for this story and others in the same field of horror, as he has attempted to collect tales that bring back what horror really is for audiences.