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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Through Three Rooms

Sven Elvestad

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To purchase Through Three Rooms

Title: Through Three Rooms
Author: Sven Elvestad
Genre: Novel
Written: (1907) (Eng. 2023)
Length: 136 pages
Original in: Norwegian
Availability: Through Three Rooms - US
Through Three Rooms - UK
Through Three Rooms - Canada
Die geheimnisvollen Zimmer - Deutschland
from: Bookshop.org (US)
directly from: Kabaty Press
  • An Asbjørn Krag Mystery
  • Originally published in serialized form as Gjennem de tre Værelser; first published in book form (in Norwegian) as Dødens finger (1915)
  • Translated by Lucy Moffatt
  • With an Introduction by Nils Nordberg

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Our Assessment:

B : fine little example of crime fiction from a very different time

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       Through Three Rooms is an early twentieth-century detective novel, one of several Sven Elvestad wrote featuring detective Asbjørn Krag It begins late one evening, with Karl Rasch, an old schoolfriend of Krag's, coming to him to appeal for help. Rasch is a doctor, and he is worried about one of his patients, a wealthy Swedish-American named John Aakerholm. As he tells Krag: "in all my years as a doctor I have never seen a man undergo so abrupt and dreadful a change". Krag is immediately intrigued, and on board, and they set out on the night train to Aakerholm's estate.
       Among the notable details about Aakerholm are that he is planning on marrying -- a local widow, known as the Silken Girl --, though it is only a marriage of convenience, not of love, and that he has an adopted son, Bengt. And something recently has very much spooked him, leaving him fearful and acting out erratically.
       From when they approach the property, Krag is observant. Introduced as a specialist in nervous diseases, so as not arouse suspicion, he gets on well with Aakerholm, too. A death, then, -- taken to be suicide, but Krag of course thinks otherwise -- complicates the whole situation -- but Krag's observational powers -- and his ability to disguise himself and his intentions -- have him figure out exactly what has been happening here -- as well as why.
       As he investigates, those around him remain confused about what has happened. The Silken Girl, for example, admits:

     "It is all most peculiar," said the widow. "I find the whole thing quite incomprehensible."
       Only Krag has insight:
     "Surely, you couldn't have expected that ?" Jim said.
     "Ah, but I did."
       This is the kind of mystery that the reader is not expected to be able to solve, but rather to simply be entertained following Krag as he cleverly makes his way to the solution, with information kept from the reader until the necessary pieces are revealed in the final explanations. It makes for a breezy and quick little entertainment, with some amusing turns by Krag -- not least when he is hustled out of town and away from the scene of the crime and has to make his way back.
       Somewhat curiously, the novel -- otherwise so immediate (and often urgent) -- is a retrospective account, the opening sentence having it begin: "One winter evening some three years ago". The final paragraphs -- a brief present-day coda of a bit of the fallout from Krag having solved the case -- suggest events may come back to haunt Krag, the author perhaps leaving open a future contest between villain and detective. This time-framing doesn't really affect the story or its telling one way or another, beyond the slightly baffling question it leaves open of why it is being told now, three years after the facts .....
       Simple by contemporary (or even Golden Age) mystery standards, Through Three Rooms is still a solid little piece of work, nicely written and with some well-executed scenes. It is a bit quick -- meaning also thin -- as readers likely expect more character- and background-development nowadays (though much modern crime fiction has gone overboard in that direction ...), but in Through Three Rooms Elvestad gets right to the point and briskly moves things along -- with a good amount of action.

- M.A.Orthofer, 30 June 2023

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Through Three Rooms: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Sven Elvestad, who also published as Stein Riverton, was a leading Norwegian crime writer. He lived 1884 to 1934.

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© 2023 the complete review

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