Personal experience is at the heart of this powerful novel from yet another skilled Swedish crime writer: Carin Gerhardsen’s compelling The Gingerbread House. Much of the traumatic childhood bullying in the novel is based on the author’s personal experiences from her youth. Gerhardsen swapped her career as a mathematician for an IT career. But it was as a writer – with a celebrated crime trilogy – that she made her mark. These three books – the Hammarby series – were succeeded by other, equally distinctive work, such as Gideon’s Ring (2012).
Speaking to Gerhardsen about the book, I found her still exercised by childhood emotional scars. ‘The Gingerbread House is a novel about evil – and the consequences of a horrible childhood,’ she told me. ‘It’s also concerned with issues of how disrespect from the people around you will ruin your self-confidence, and compromises your hopes for the future. As a child, I was subjected to intimidation and harassment myself, so the plot of the book came easily to me. Many of the scenes in the novel are versions of my own experiences. I wanted to explore how different people react to traumatic experience, and how bad childhood experiences can distort our adult lives. It’s a crucial tenet for me that we all should take responsibility for the wellbeing of the people around us.
‘And – now that I consider it – that particular aspect of life is always somehow involved in my stories: people who care and people who don’t, people who react intelligently to what life throw at us – and those who don’t. How we all have a way of confronting complicated situations – and how some of us are shattered by our experiences.’
The Gingerbread House, the novel itself, is both a telling examination of these personal feelings and a vividly characterised addition to the growing library of Scandicrime.