It seems likely that Swedish author John Ajvide Lindqvist will forever be remembered as “the author of Let The Right One In”, but in the years since that sensation’s publication he’s delivered a string of consistently intriguing chillers. I Am Behind You feels of a piece with his grim fable Little Star and ghost story Harbour, as four families on a countryside camping holiday wake up one morning to find themselves literally in the middle of nowhere.
There’s a clear Stephen King influence to the conceit (they may not be under a dome, but it feels like it), but Lindqvist takes things to a bleaker, meaner place. He’s pretty unsparing when it comes to showing the nastier side of human nature, and the first half the book suffers from a lack of characters we can actually get behind. The proud, narcissistic and cruel individuals assume control quickly, while the kinder ones wait and hope for a way out of the situation.
However, after a little too much time spent confirming that there’s nowhere to go, Lindqvist begins to turn up the heat and introduces a series of spectres that represent the past that these characters have been running from. Although it feels overlong at nearly 400 pages, the longer we spend in this pressure cooker, the more effective it is. Similarly, while the sheer unlikeability of some of the characters poses problems early on, Lindqvist luxuriates in showing us these people at their worst, and it does pack a punch. The revelations surrounding the splendidly evil little girl Molly are particularly strong, and it should also be noted that the author seems to be having a brilliant time with the sections of the book that come from the point of view of bewildered dog Benny.
If this doesn’t live up the highest standard of the author’s work, it’s a horror that works its spell slowly, and you’ll be gripped by the end.