Blog Tour Review: Cabin Fever – Alex Dahl

I received a copy of this book from the publisher.

About The Book

Alone and isolated in a vast Scandinavian forest, a therapist begins to read her client’s novel manuscript, only to discover the main character is terrifyingly familiar…

You are her therapist. Kristina is a successful therapist in central Oslo. She spends her days helping clients navigate their lives with a cool professionalism that has got her to the top. She is your client. But when her client Leah, a successful novelist, arrives at her office clearly distressed, begging Kristina to come to her remote cabin in the woods, she feels the balance begin to slip. But out here in the woods. When Leah fails to turn up to her next two sessions, Kristina reluctantly heads out into the wilderness to find her. Nothing is as it seems. Alone and isolated, Kristina finds Leah’s unfinished manuscript, and as she reads she realises the main character is terrifyingly familiar…

My Review

Kristina Moss, a therapist, lives in Oslo with her husband Eirik, a powerful man in one of Norway’s political parties. They live in a beautiful apartment and attend glamorous parties and dinners with some of the most influential people in the city. They a live charmed life but scratch the surface and the reality becomes clear. They’re desperate for a child but despite numerous cycles of IVF they haven’t yet been able to conceive, something which saddens them both. She is also dealing with the death of one of her oldest and closest friends, Elisabeth and is still grieving her loss. Kristina has thrown herself into her work, working closely with her patients and has found something of a bond with one of them, successful author, Leah Iverson.

Leah has written a piece of autofiction about her escape from an abusive relationship to much critical and commercial success. She is still working through issues and so sees Kristina every Friday afternoon to talk through the trauma she experienced. When one Friday in November Leah turns up to her appointment very distressed and with a black eye, Kristina is concerned. But Leah won’t talk about what happened, instead fleeing Kristina’s office, leaving behind a key and a map to her cabin in the woods and a plea for Kristina to visit her there. When Leah disappears Kristina takes things into her own hands but gets more than she bargains for.

This is a clever novel written from the viewpoint of Kristina, Elisabeth and Leah. Through them a picture is built of Kristina’s world which isn’t all as it seems. There are secrets, mistruths and misdirection and each of the women has their part to play in a twisty narrative and plot. They are well-drawn and quite unlikeable in lots of ways – something I love in a book – and their own individual stories intertwine beautifully to create a dark read. I love a multi-person narrative and this one is brilliantly done, balancing the plot with titbits of information about each of the women to build a picture of trauma, loss and desperation.

Kristina’s discovery that Leah has been writing a book about her and seems to know all of her secrets throws her carefully balanced life into chaos. Named Supernova, it is at turns a damning exposé of Kristina and a terrifying examination of a woman on the edge. I really liked this ‘book within a book’ and I think it was my favourite part of the novel. The relationship between a therapist and their patient is in an intimate, yet unbalanced one, with one party spilling all of their deepest thoughts, fears and secrets and the other absorbing them. Supernova is a clever play on this, and really shows how deep this type of relationship can be. I found Supernova to be intense and unsettling and I admired how it was used to shine a light on what was really happening.

One of the things I like most about Nordic Noir is the setting and Cabin Fever doesn’t disappoint, with descriptions of the cold and wet winter, with almost no sunlight to break up the depressing winter months just leaping from the pages. The cabin in particular felt oppressive and claustrophobic and I had chills down my spine on more than occasion. There is something about a remote dwelling in the middle of winter which feels terrifying. The blankness of snow and how it absorbs sound. Impassable roads. Unrecognisable landscapes. It is both horrifying and disorientating.

This is a great thriller which has much to like. I do think it could’ve done with an edit as it did feel a bit slow at times – some of the descriptions slowed the pace down – but it did keep me turning the pages needing to know what happened next. I liked the descriptions of upper class Oslo and the quiet and understated wealth, the secrets lurking beneath the surface, the women narrators and the plot, which held one or two surprises and a satisfying conclusion. This is my first Alex Dahl and I don’t think it’ll be my last. Recommended.

Alex Dahl

Alex Dahl was born in Oslo, Norway, and is half American, half Norwegian, fully Francophile, and London resident. Alex is the author of The Boy at the Door, published world-wide in 2018.
She holds an MA in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University, as well as an MSc in Business Management. Alex loves to travel and has previously lived in Moscow, Paris, Stuttgart, Sandefjord, Switzerland and Bath.

Where You Can Buy It

My thanks to Sofia Saghir at Midas PR for inviting me to join the Blog Tour and for sending me a copy of the book via Head of Zeus

Cabin Fever by Alex Dahl is out now in both hardcover and ebook.

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