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by Lars Kepler and Ann Long, trans.
Blue Door, April 2012
512 pages
7.99 GBP
ISBN: 0007359128

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Stockholm detective Joona Linna takes a case involving the frenzied slaughter of a family. A barely-surviving son is in hospital; only he knows the whereabouts of a sister who may also be under threat. Desperate to locate the girl, Linna asks trauma specialist Erik Maria Bark to use his specialist skills as a hypnotist to elicit her address. Bark's efforts are successful, but Bark promised to forego hypnotism ten years ago when his practice seemingly put vulnerable patients at risk. When his action becomes known he is subject to public criticism, but much worse, he has stirred up something from the past, and the worst nightmares of Bark and his partner Simone become reality.

Lars Kepler is the pseudonym of a Swedish literary couple each successful under their own names, which may explain the rather odd structure of THE HYPNOTIST. The book starts with the story of the butchered family; this comes to an abrupt halt about halfway through the book, leaving a few loose ends. There is some overlap with the second tale, hinted at in the first half of the book, which starts with a lengthy section of back story, bringing a sudden and lengthy hiatus to the otherwise feverish action. All this is somewhat disorientating.

The current action in the book is told in the present tense, historical events in the past tense, which provides minimal assistance. Neither does the focus of the action provide much help: events are seen through the eyes of participants as necessary for the next part of the story but without any continuity so, for example, the early stages of the book focus closely on Linna, only for him to then play a peripheral part until the final pages. For some especially exciting events only sequential, superfluous versions are given from the perspective of different participants. In one piece of action near the end there is a second version when the results are already clear from the first so the tension is gone and the repeat merely a clumsy way of providing missing detail.

THE HYPNOTIST is translated from Swedish, and generally the result is readable, but one peculiarity is the use of the word 'ferrule' for what is described as a instrument of correction specific to Sweden. Since 'ferrule' has a familiar and clear meaning in English, it seems very odd to use the word for a completely different item. If no reasonable equivalent in English is available, it would be better to use the Swedish word.

Notwithstanding the above observations, THE HYPNOTIST is likely to be popular with those who like 'slashers'. The perpetrators are as evil, warped and cunning as one could wish, the helplessness of the victims is dwelt upon at length, and the resolution exciting and in doubt up to the final pages. The book ends with a trailer for the next in the series, and no doubt Detective Inspector Joona Linna will have more cases to solve.

Chris Roberts is a retired manager of shopping centres in Hong Kong, and now lives in Bristol, primarily reading.

Reviewed by Chris Roberts, June 2012

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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