Oskar is a timid and lonely little boy, living in a high-rise building in one of those suburbs of Stockholm that was built with great fanfare in the 70's and ignored from then on. Oskar likes to eat sweets, collects murder stories in a scrapbook and fantasises about stabbing the boys in his class that torment and bully him constantly. Oskar is also a resilient and surprisingly self-sufficient little boy. His tormentors beat him, but they certainly aren't defeating him. But lonely little boys tend to watch what is happening around them, and Oskar is intrigued by the people that quietly move into the apartment next door. The blinds are always closed and it's very quiet in there. Nobody else pays a lot of attention to this new family, but later on, the removalist that helped them move in did wonder about the lack of belongings and just one bed.
Oskar knows that Eli doesn't have many friends, he knows that he normally only sees her, late at night in the playground near their building. She smells bad; her hair sometimes has grey streaks in it; and she wears light summer clothing and no shoes even though it's snowing. Eli's quiet, reserved, very formal. Oskar knows she's a bit odd, but he is just too young and too innocent to realise how odd, until much much later.
Soon after Eli moves in, a child's body is found hanging in a tree in a suburb not too far away. When an older man simply disappears one night – the media, the police, and all the residents start wondering if there is a serial killer in the area. But nothing in LET THE RIGHT ONE IN is ever going to be that simple.
LET THE RIGHT ONE IN is labelled a Vampire Love Story, and it is. But if you're a fan of the softer, vampire romances where a simple bite on the neck is the weapon of choice, or where the vampire is the romantic hero who saves the day – then approach this book with caution. LET THE RIGHT ONE IN is part horror story, part romance, part comedy routine and part murder mystery. And it's graphic. Very very graphic. And hypnotic, fascinating and alluring. And weird – it has to be said – very very weird. LET THE RIGHT ONE IN proved to me again that weird isn't always bad, sometimes it's just weird. Obviously to read this book you need an almighty disconnection with reality. This is the story of a vampire and her familiar (for want of a better description) and the violence implicit in a vampire staying alive. There's a certain disconnection in reactions around these events, as despite a number of sightings and some very gruesome events around the fate of the familiar, the neighbourhood seems surprisingly unaware of the vampire in their midst. But by that time, you're so wrapped up in Oskar's ultimate fate that it's a bit immaterial. Certainly you're so wrapped up in the whole Gothic feeling of it, anything anybody does or is doesn't really come to be all that surprising.
With some overtones of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Eli is aware of what she is and what she does. She is not just a blood sucking monster, intent on her own survival and Oskar needs a friend who believes in him and he can trust.
LET THE RIGHT ONE IN dragged me so far out of my comfort zone, I should have packed a lunch, but the journey, despite the gory components, despite the out and out weirdness of the entire book, was not without a particular sort of joy and was most definitely extremely memorable.