It seems like every couple of weeks or so, a new book is coming out that is heralded by the press/publicist as the “new” Stieg Larsson book. Apparently, this label is attached to any novel that meets a certain list of criteria : 1) is it written by an author from somewhere in Scandanavia ? (Sweden is best, of course, but they’ll take Norway or Denmark in a pinch) 2) is there a dark foreboding atmosphere punctuated with snow and graphic descriptions of bleak landscapes? 3) is it a mystery novel with a disillusioned, anti-hero solving the crime? 4) are the details of the mystery/crime extremely graphic in nature including violence wise, bloodwise and especially sexually?
Does The Hypnotist meet all the criteria on the list? Well let’s go down the list. 1) The author, Lars Kepler, is actually a pseudonym for a couple from Sweden who are writing together. They get extra points from me for having a good author picture. Very art buyer couple in modern Swedish apartment – no Ikea for them. Check one for them. 2) Extreme dark atmosphere. Lots of snow and details of Sweden. Everybody seems unhappy. Check. 3) In this one we get two disillusioned anti-heroes for the price of one. The first is the detective on the case – Joona Linna (whom I first thought was a woman but soon realized is a man) and second the hypnotist – Erika Maria Bark. Double check. 4) Is it graphic? Hell to the yeah. Extra Big Check. So with all this criteria settled, the big questions has to be is it as good as The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo? In my opinion, no…..but it’s close.
The story is that Detective Joona Linna has been assigned to the horrific murders of a gambling addict father and his family, complete with chopped up bodies etc… When one of the children, a boy named Josef, is found to be barely alive, despite the hundreds of cuts on his body, and it is learned that there is elder child still out there who may be in danger, Linna brings in the Hypnotist to talk with Josef. The hypnotist, Erik, is dealing with his own issues. He’s vowed never to hypnotize anyone again and his wife is extremely suspicious that he is having another affair. When he acquiesces to hypnotizing the boy to save the older child, he learns the awful truth about the murders. As Linna and Erik try to unravel the murders, Erik’s son also disappears. These two cases eventually intertwine in a most interesting way in the thrilling climax of the book.
I enjoyed this book. It certainly had all the elements of a good Swedish noir thriller but unlike Larsson’s Millenium trilogy there was something missing from its’ characters. They were somewhat wooden and I couldn’t identify with them. The style of writing, with many short chapters, contributed to the eerie feeling throughout and kept the pace of the story moving along quickly which I definitely enjoyed. All in all, I think if you are looking for a fun and gory summer read you will probably enjoy. It just didn’t hit all the marks with me. I give it three stars out of five on my scale.
Three Appeals : noir thriller, gory and horrific details, twists and turns of the mystery
Red Flags : Extreme violence, sexual situations
If you liked this book definitely read Larsson’s Millenium Trilogy if haven’t already. If you have read those books then try:
1) The Snowman by Jo Nesbo
The latest addition in Nesbo’s Harry Hole series, this book is creepy and thrilling to read. Harry Hole is a deliciously dark and disturbed anti-hero who is still in love with the woman he’s lost because of his job. When mothers of young children start disappearing the only clue left is a snowman built in their yard. Hole is the only one who believes that this might be the work of a serial killer. You’ll never look at snowmen the same way!
2) Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell
The first in the Kurt Wallander series. One frozen January Morning at 5 am, Inspector Wallander responds to what he expects is a routine call out. When he reaches the isolated farmhouse he discovers a bloodbath. An old man has been tortured and beaten to death, his wife lies barely alive beside his shattered body, victims of violence beyond reason. The woman supplies Wallander with his only clue: the perpetrators may have been foreign. When this is leaked to the press, racial hatred is unleashed. Kurt Wallander is a senior police officer at Ystad, a small town in the wind-lashed Swedish province of Skane. His life is a shambles. His wife has left him, his daughter refuses to speak to him, even his ageing father barely tolerates him. He works tirelessly, eats badly and drinks the nights away in a lonely, neglected flat. But now winter closes its grip on Ystad, and Wallander, his tenacious efforts closely monitored by the tough minded (and disarmingly attractive) district attorney Anette Brolin, must forget his trouble, and throw himself into a battle against time and xenophobia. (taken from Fantastic Fiction)
3) Smilla’s Sense of Snow by Peter Hoeg (also known as Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow)
A little boy falls off a roof in Copenhagen and is killed. Smilla, his neighbour, suspects it is not an accident: she has seen his footsteps in the snow, and, having been brought up by her mother, a Greenlander, she has a feeling for snow. This book was nominated for an Edgar Award (a mystery novel award) and was made into a great movie. (taken from Fantastic Fiction)
As always, if you read any of these books please let me know what you think! I’d love to see your comments.
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