It’s a rainy Tuesday night when Cecilia meets Tobias. Cecilia is picking her youngest daughter up from swim class, and Tobias is the only child left who hasn’t been collected by his parents. Cecilia wants nothing more than to go straight home for a glass of wine, but as she leaves the pool with her daughters, the receptionist implores Cecilia to drive Tobias to his home nearby.
Cecilia relents – the boy looks so forlorn, after all – and bundles Tobias into the car with her daughters. Pulling up outside Tobias’s house, she’s planning to walk him to the front door, exchange pleasantries with his parents and leave, but the door is ajar, the house is dusty and still, and Tobias’s parents are nowhere to be seen.
Cecilia is shocked. Where are this boy’s parents? Why won’t he tell her when she asks? Should she call the police? But Tobias insists that she doesn’t. His parents will be back tomorrow, he says. So Cecilia lets him stay at her house overnight. She’ll just take him to school the next day and then Tobias will be someone else’s problem.
Cecilia drops Tobias off in the morning, but it’s not long before she receives a call from the school. Tobias isn’t registered as a pupil there, and no one can work out who he is. It’s then that Cecilia begins to feel the fear. She had an inkling about who the boy was before, but now things are becoming much clearer, and Cecilia’s terrified.
Could this boy really be who she thinks he is? It’s too much to even contemplate. Because if her suspicions are well-founded, his very presence has the power to bring Cecilia’s perfect life crashing down around her. What Tobias represents, what he knows, who he is, all leads straight back to the shameful, sad secret Cecilia’s been carrying around with her for so long.
Alex Dahl’s The Boy at the Door is a seriously impressive debut. It’s full to the brim with twists and turns and packed with a real kaleidoscope of characters, and even with a plot so intricate and vast, Dahl doesn’t drop the ball once. The characters are well crafted and wonderfully complex – the dizzying array of emotions we feel towards Cecilia over the course of the novel is a testament to that – and the story is made even more interesting through its use of Cecilia and Tobias as dual narrators.
The Boy at the Door is set in Norway during wintertime, with the bleak Scandinavian landscape forming a fitting backdrop for the heart-stopping, heartbreaking drama that unfolds as Cecilia’s and Tobias’s lives become entangled. Dahl’s tight prose helps build tension until it’s hard to put this book down.
A gripping story that explores human fallibility and takes a closer look at some of those women who seem to have it all (reminiscent of Gone Girl), The Boy at the Door is an exciting new addition to the Nordic noir genre. A genuinely great read.
Alex Dahl is a half-American, half-Norwegian author. Born in Oslo, she wrote The Boy at the Door while living in Sandefjord.