The Hypnotist – Lars Kepler

Setting: Stockholm, Sweden. (Yes, I am still at least partly in the grip of Scandinavian crime fiction. Why? A lot of it is high quality.)

Story: A family is brutally slain – and brutally is probably an understatement – but the son, having suffered a large number of knife wounds, and in a state of shock, witnessed the slaughter. Detective Inspector Joona Linna is the policeman who wants to nail the killer quickly, and to do so he embarks on the risky strategy of asking Dr Erik Bark, a one-time practising hypnotist, to start practising again. Of course, it doesn’t quite go to plan.

Good Stuff: This book is a breath of fresh air in so many ways. For example, the plot doesn’t lead where I expected it to go, and the characterization extends way beyond the main characters without boring the reader. (Indeed, there were times when I would have liked to know more about Linna.) The plot is not that complex, at first sight, but as it unravels, there are more and more layers. The action and the mystery are brilliantly combined to make this a pure page-turner of the highest order.

Not So Good Stuff: I suspect that some of the hypnotism material is bunkum, but believable. One or two of the twists and turns come across as aborted ideas, as if the author (it’s actually two people, but we will pass over that just now) couldn’t work out how to make the idea work, or thought some misdirection was necessary. So, not without its faults.

Score: 7/10

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