The Cult on Fog Island by Mariette Lindstein
Swedish authors are incredible. If you haven’t read a book by a Swedish author, do yourself a favour – buy one and read it immediately. I was first introduced to Swedish authors when I read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. It took me three attempts before I managed to get through (and past) the first chapter. The names were unfamiliar and hard to pronounce and even though I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, there was just something different about the way that he wrote as opposed to an American, English or Australian writer. It was as if he was saying things without writing the words.. as if I was reading between the lines without even meaning to. Once I got through the first book of that trilogy, I devoured the other two. And then more recently, I read The Girl in the Spider’s Web and The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye by David Lagercrantz who continued the Millennium series after Larsson’s death.
A couple of years ago I read I Am Behind You by John Ajvide Lindqvist and absolutely loved it. It confused me and challenged everything I thought I knew about story-telling in the most brilliant way. Once again, it were as if Lindqvist was saying far more than the words he provided on the page. I really want to read his 2015 release I Always Find You and only JUST realised that the horror movie Let the Right One In is based on one of his novels with the same name. I had no idea but want to read immediately.
Anyway, I went into one of my favourite bookshops on my lunch break, Better Read Than Dead, and came across The Cult on Fog Island. A few things drew me to this book:
- The cover? LOVE.
- The size of the book? Huge and perfect.
- Swedish author? Check!
- Did the title remind you of Shutter Island? Yep.
- Do I find cults incredibly eerie and creepy? You ‘betcha.
As soon as I started reading The Cult on Fog Island by Mariette Lindstein, I was hooked. It was the kind of book that I found myself thinking about while I was working, while I was cooking or while I was watching a movie with Pete. All I wanted was to be reading. The book’s protagonist, Sofia, attends a seminar hosted by the infamous ‘wellness’ and life coach Franz Oswald who then invites her to visit the island and see what his program and course is all about. Once there, Franz offers Sofia an incredible job and in that moment she can’t think of any reason why she shouldn’t take him up on the offer. Once she is there though, and after signing on for a two year contract, things aren’t what they seem on the island. And Franz? Well, he is not at all what he seemed.
What follows is a truly addictive and thrilling read. I loved how gradually the circumstances on the island got worse and worse, and how closely we were able to follow alongside Sofia. Sofia, as a character, I found really easy to be interested in. She was really well written even though we aren’t given a whole lot of background information about her or where she came from before the island. I actually didn’t mind not knowing much about her as it meant I went into the story with her completely unbiased and unaware of what state of mind she was in when she decided to go to the island (besides the crazy ex). I did have moments where I thought to myself, “SURELY you aren’t going to go along with this, SURELY?!” but then, when we were let in on her inner monologue and her thought processes, everything made sense and had reason.
I do love a good, atmospheric read and Lindstein absolutely nails that in The Cult on Fog Island. To go with the ominous nature of the cult and the mental decline of their leader, the description of the weather and the surrounding conditions sets the scene perfectly. As I was reading it, I could envisage the cliff face that was so often referred to and the sound of the violent swells of the sea. I could feel the change of the seasons as they came and went in the book, the chill in the air as Christmas approached the island. I have to admit that I do rate a book based on the way it handles the sensory elements of the story and this one scored big time. BIG time.
I also learned that the author, Mariette Lindstein, is a former Scientologist! I only found that out after I read the book and it made me think back to all the details and experiences that our protagonist Sofia lived through on the island, and how removed the the cult’s leader Franz was from reality – what real life events took place to inspire these fictional ones? The knowledge that Lindstein was a part of what has come to be known as a modern day cult made me reassess the book as a whole – was it more of an exposé than a work of fiction?! That thought alone excites the hell out of me!!
When I found out that this book was the first in a trilogy (again, I found this out after I finished the book), it made me SO KEEN to read the next one and left me even more excited to find out where the second book would go. The Cult on Fog Island could very easily be a stand alone novel, though you are left with questions at the end it still feels like the story was wrapped up nicely. Props to Lindstein for the ending as it is one that does leave you wondering where what how but in a way that doesn’t take away from the conclusion. I am so intrigued to see what she does with the second instalment of this trilogy and it just can’t be published soon enough!
(I also passed this one onto my boss after I finished and she loved it as well. Rave reviews all round!)