Review: The Lake of the Dead by Andre Bjerke

Deep in the darkest part of the Norwegian woods stands Dead Man’s Cabin, the site of tragedy a century earlier when Tøre Gruvik, in a fit of madness, murdered his sister and her lover, beheading them and throwing their corpses in a nearby lake before drowning himself to join them in death. Ever since, it is said, anyone who stays at the cabin is possessed by Gruvik’s spirit and driven to drown themselves in the lake. What’s more, Gruvik’s restless ghost has been seen by many of the local people, prowling the woods by moonlight.

Bjørn Werner, a young writer from Oslo, ignored the old superstitions and rented Dead Man’s Cabin as a quiet spot to finish his book. Now he has disappeared, and the evidence suggests he threw himself in the lake in a fit of madness. The police write it off as a suicide, but his friends are not so sure. Kai Bugge, Bjørn’s psychiatrist, believes in the suicide explanation, while private detective Harald Gran thinks it’s a case of murder, and Gabriel Mørk, an expert in the occult, is certain that darker and otherworldly forces are at play. They travel to unravel the mystery of their friend’s terrible fate, but not all of them will return alive from their stay at the Lake of the Dead …

André Bjerke’s The Lake of the Dead (1942) was voted the all-time best Norwegian crime novel, and its atmospheric 1958 film adaptation is regarded as one of Norway’s best films. This new translation is the first-ever American publication of Bjerke’s classic, which features an unusual mixture of murder mystery and supernatural horror that will keep readers guessing until the thrilling conclusion.

The Lake of the Dead by Andre Bjerke. Published by Valancourt Books 2022. Originally published in Norway in 1942. Total of 191 pages.

*Trigger Warning: Pet death.

The Lake of the Dead is considered one of the all time greatest Norwegian crime novels. This is the first time it has been printed in North America. Norway isn’t know for their horror stories, as apparently there just aren’t that many horror authors from there. :/ I tried googling Norway horror novels and I really did not find anything. Crazy! 😮 Apparently Norway is more into thriller, suspense, and murder mystery instead.

Even though The Lake of the Dead is a crime / murder mystery novel, it has supernatural elements mixed in. It also has a great creepy, almost gothic vibe running through out. I loved the eerie setting and atmosphere. I really enjoyed all of the eerie feels this author created.

I’ve seen a lot of reviews saying how they loved the story but rated the book super low because of the sexiest views on women. Look, I get it. Even for a book from the 1940s, there felt like a lot of sexiest comments. BUT, here’s the thing…. after finishing the book, I realized what was actually going on….

See, the narrator is unreliable and clueless. HE is the one with the extremely sexist views. The other male characters treat the female characters just fine. All the negative comments the narrator makes toward women (feeling faint, being weak, ect), are actually a reflection of his own actions! He is the one who was weak, hysterical, clueless, feeling faint, and so on! Also, when it came to catching the killer, his (male) friends didn’t even bother getting his (the narrators) help, and instead went to his wife, who was clearly stronger! It was pretty much a pat on his head, like, “Aww, that’s cute how you want to help, too.” as if talking to a child instead of their friend! 😀

I did have a little bit of a problem following along at some spots. Some of it had to do with a lot of Norwegian ( or European?) references that I just didn’t get. :/ Older pop culture references from Norway. The publishers did include a section in the back of the book to explain these things, which was cool, but it would take me right out of the story!

My other problem with the writing is harder to explain. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a bad book! Just for me, the flow of the writing felt a little bit off some how? Not sure what? It was just a little difficult to follow at times and made reading a little slower going.

The Lake of the Dead is an interesting murder mystery with a little bit of a supernatural twist. Great spooky atmosphere! The pacing is a little wonky but nothing too bad. Don’t get too upset over the sexist talk from the narrator. Just LoL at the main characters cluelessness!! 😀 Enjoy the unique murder mystery.

* 3.5 rounded up to a 4 out of 5

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