Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist and translated by Ebba Segerberg is for people who like their vampires monstrous. There are no cuddly creatures here, no misunderstood, sexy, brooding handsome young men, no one one who really has a soul, no one fighting an urge or repressing it with non-human blood substitutes. The vampire in Let the Right One In is an evil monster that survives on human flesh and blood. It’s also a 12-year-old girl.
In classic horror fiction the reader has to wait for the monster to arrive. Instead of starting off with a jolt, the way many contemporary thrillers do, things are basically normal for quite a while. Think of The Exorcist, the 1970’s movie about a girl possessed by demons. 40 minutes into the film things are bad but not so bad you’d have to believe the devil made her do it. Let the Right One In begins like a classic horror tale, with a troubling but ordinary situation. 12-year-old Oskar lives with his single mother in a modern flat in a modern subdivision. Small and shy, he has become the target of the school bullies, so much so that he dreads going to school and has lost all of his friends. He spends each day trying to avoid the bullies and then trying to keep his mother in the dark about them afterwards.
There is a murder in Oskar’s neighborhood which he becomes obsessed with. He follows every piece of news about it that he can get with an avid interest, even keeps a scrapbook about it. At the same time a man and his young daughter move into the building next door. Their curtains are always closed. Very few people ever see either of them enter or leave. Though the reader knows immediately where this is going, the book becomes harder and harder to put down. I’m not going to say any more. Spoiling any of the plot would spoil the fun of reading it. While Let the Right On In is probably not great art, it is great entertainment, the kind of book that keeps you up at night and then keeps you up at night.
I first ran this review on my old blog, Ready When You Are, C.B. back in 2009. I like to think that I was ahead of the curve with this book. I was a fan before everyone was a fan. I probably was ahead of the pack, too, by about three hours. It’s still one of my favorite scary books. I gave my copy away, I used to do lots of give-aways in those days. Dakota, pictured above, was our new dog. She was four when we got her, so new to us. She used to eat my books. She is still with us today but she has stopped eating books.