I finished Lars Kepler’s The Hypnotist yesterday and again found myself wanting to leave a good 24 hours or so for the book to sink in before I reviewed it. I mentioned to a good friend of mine earlier in the week that I wanted to read another Scandinavian crime novel soon, and this was an old reading copy I had on my desk. I noticed that it was already available in stores and figured I should get my act together and read it. I think I am pleased that I did…
I won’t lie about it; there will be people who simply will not like this book. The language is rude, some of the scenes are extremely gruesome, and the present tense of the story could put people off. It’s all ”Detective Joona Linna orders…” and ”He picks up the phone… I honestly cannot remember reading a novel like that and it was quite hard to get used to. If you can move beyond the language, the themes, and that some expression has been lost in translation, The Hypnotist is a unique and well-crafted novel that will delight those of us who ‘get’ the Stieg Larsson phenomenon.
The story focuses on a man named Erik Maria Bark, a retired hypnotist living with his wife and son in Stockholm. His marriage is collapsing around him, and his son is mixing with some unfavourable people, and after a series of complications in his hypnosis sessions, he has sworn away from practice forever. That is until he is contacted by Detective Inspector Joona Linna in regards to a brutal family murder. Spanning two crime scenes, killing three people and almost killing a fourth, the authorities’ best shot at protecting the fifth and final family member and solving the crime is to speak to the only eyewitness – the critically injured son, Joseph Ek. Joseph is in no capacity to be questioned, and so the expertise of Erik is required to assist the investigation. Although reluctant at first, he finally agrees to help and hypnotise the traumatised boy.
This decision almost costs Erik his family, and as the novel unravels over a lengthy 463 pages, the reader makes horrific discoveries as the true nature of Joseph Ek’s involvement in the crime is revealed. This story line runs in tandem with another crisis for Erik, when an abduction forces him to retreat into a dark world he thought he had forgotten long ago. Has someone from his past come back to haunt him? Or is the level of evil in the Ek family enough to destroy everything in its path? I suggest reading on to find out, as beneath the language issues lay a brilliant psychological thriller about family, retribution, and how far some people will go to take revenge on others.
Lars Kepler isn’t an individual writer; it’s a pseudonym for a literary couple who live in Sweden. This novel was a bestseller in Europe, and while I don’t think it will gain such status in Australia, I think it is an impressive entry into what I’m told is a bestselling series. I will await the translation of number two eagerly.