My mum came home from the library so proud – her eyes were shining with a sense of self-accomplishment. She had found a book I MUST love. Apparently according to the cover, Lars Kepler was the new Stieg Larsson and his novels – comparable in greatness to the Millenium Trilogy (1,2,3). I sincerely doubted that even before starting The Hypnotist mostly because I tend to disapprove of my mum’s reading habits. Despite (or maybe because) of her intelligence and stressful work, she chooses to read light and easy novels and to watch chick flicks. I am not one to judge (or maybe I am) and feeling bad to disappoint her, I picked up Lars Kepler and The Hypnotist, determined to at least try to like it.
An important clarification: Lars Kepler is not he or she, but they. Lars Kepler is the artistic pseudonym of a family of writers, Alexander and Alexandra Ahndoril. Both of them are established writers separately, but decided to write three novels together: The Hypnotist, The Paganini Contract and The Fire Witness, all featuring the detective Joona Linna. In fact, the family wanted to remain incognito but as we very well know rarely something remains hidden from pushy journalists.
I am not entirely sure how this professional team works (does one write one chapter and the other another:)) but in their case it worked quite well. In fact, I wasn’t aware it is not one or two authors while reading and honestly one cannot tell The Hypnotist is a product of two brains and not one. In that sense the Ahndoril family deserves admiration.
Otherwise, The Hypnotist is the typical crime thriller one might expect. It starts off with a murder of a whole family. Father, mother and their young daughter are brutally slaughtered, while the only surviving member of the massacre, their teenage boy, is lying in a coma. The investigating detective Joona Linna (the Swedish James Bond, or so they say) contacts famous psychiatrist Erik Maria Bark, who manages to communicate with the boy through hypnosis. The ultimate goal – to save the older sister, who might also be in danger from the maniacal murderer.
Erik Maria Bark’s life is simultaneously explored. He stopped practicing hypnosis 10 years before due to a tragic event but the brutality of the murder prompts him to forfeit his promise. However, when his own son is kidnapped, Bark is forced to face the demons of the past. Joona Linna begins investigating the murder and the kidnapping and a possible connection between them eventually revealing dangerous secrets and perverse motives.
On a whole The Hypnotist is not a bad novel. It is engaging and enthralling and I stayed late more than one night, being unable to tear myself apart. However, the denouement is somewhat strange and frankly made-up. The novel starts up with the family murder but somewhere midway shifts towards Erik Maria Bark and his life drama. Suddenly not the crime, but Bark’s past and present, becomes the center of the novel, a notion I found a bit weird. The crime is quickly resolved and then the storytelling goes on exploring a chain of events, that could have been a topic of a novel itself. On a positive note, the writing is good, the characters are well-developed and the necessary ingredients for a good thriller are all there.
The Hypnotist is not a masterpiece but I doubt any detective story can really be. It is a good break in between serious books and I consider giving a chance to the other two novels of the series, featuring the same detective. However, the team Lars Kepler is nothing compared to Stieg Larsson’s talent of storytelling. I know I have read only the Millenium trilogy, which is his masterpiece, but three novels are enough to form an opinion. The Lars Kepler family has a long way to go before reaching these heights but if one goes without too much expectation into the novel, it won’t be disappointing.
See Stieg Larsson’s masterpieces: