THE HYPNOTIST by Lars Keplar

Book Quote:

“Oh, my God! He cried out. “They’ve been slaughtered . . . Children have been slaughtered . . . I don’t know what to do. I’m all alone, and they’re all dead.”

Book Review:

Review by Bonnie Brody  AUG 10, 2011)

The Hypnotist, written by Lars Kepler (a pseudonym for a husband and wife team writing together in Sweden), was tauted by Janet Maslin of The New York Times as “The summer’s likeliest new Nordic hit.” The writing is compared to that of Steig Larsson and Henning Mankell. Other than the novel taking place in Sweden, I observed little or no similarities to either of these two writers.

The novel opens up with a bloody, horrific murder scene. An entire family has been hacked up with an axe, knives and scissors. Body parts are strewn everywhere. Arms and entrails are mixed in with the blood. Only the fifteen year old boy, Josef, survives. As he lies in a hospital bed, a detective, Joona Linna, is called in and takes the case. There are two things that Joona detests. “One is having to give up on a case, walking away from unidentified bodies, unsolved rapes, robberies, cases of abuse and murder. And the other thing he loathes, although in a completely different way, is when these unsolved cases are finally solved, because when the old questions are answered, it is seldom in the way one would wish.” Joona is a detective well-respected by his peers and someone with an instinctual sense for the underlying truth of things. He is also known for never giving up on a case.

Despite Josef being on extremely strong pain killers and having been stabbed all over, Joona wants him to be hypnotized. He calls in Erik Maria Bark, a hypnotist and trauma specialist who has sworn ten years ago never to practice hypnosis again. Despite this promise, Joona talks him into hypnotizing Josef. During the course of hypnosis, it turns out that Josef himself is the murderer. The wounds he has are all self-inflicted

The novel deals with Josef’s escape from the hospital, serial murders and kidnappings. All is told in full graphic detail. Not one drop of blood is left to the reader’s imagination. This is not a book for the weak of heart or squeamish.

The novel also deals with the troubled marital relationship of Erik and his wife, Simone, as they struggle to hold their floundering marriage together. Erik is addicted to several medications that he keeps in a special “parrot and native” box. He uses multiple sleeping pills, pain killers, uppers and downers in order to numb himself from the world.

Unlike the works of Steig Larsson, Arne Dahl and Henning Mankell, this book is mainly about external actions rather than existential and internal reflections. The book is written in short chapters and follows several cases of murder and mayhem. The middle section of the book is about Erik’s history as a hypnotist and the reasons that he decided to give up the practice of hypnosis.

The book falters in many ways. Characters are not fully realized, the ending is too pat, and though the beginning of the book alludes to secrets in Joona’s past, these are never fully revealed. Perhaps this is because a sequel is in the works. The reader is also left without knowing what happens to some of the characters, especially Evelyn, Josef’s sister.

For a first novel, this is an extraordinary tome at 503 pages. Some of it works and some of it just didn’t keep me entranced. I must admit that at times I found it to be an effort to pick up the book and keep reading despite the action sequences which I usually enjoy a lot. The book tries hard to belong to the Swedish genre of existential angst and lost souls but doesn’t quite find its way. I think it would make a fine book for the airplane or beach but unlike some of Mankell’s work, it won’t stay in my mind for a long period of time. The book would have been better served if tauter as an action-packed mystery with graphic descriptions of mayhem, severed body parts and bloody corpses throughout.  (Translated by Ann Long.)

AMAZON READER RATING: from 262 readers
PUBLISHER: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; First Edition edition (June 21, 2011)
REVIEWER: Bonnie Brody
AUTHOR WEBSITE: Wikipedia page on Lars Keplar
EXTRAS: Reading Guide and Excerpt
MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION: Read our review of:


August 10, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: Debut Novel, Mystery/Suspense

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