Thriller: The Hypnotist, by Lars Kepler

The Hypnotist (Joona Linna, #1)
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Swedish crime thrillers are hot these days, following the success of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” et al. Now a married couple, writing under the pen name of Lars Kepler, adds a new title to the mix with The Hypnotist. The novel opens with the harrowing scene of the murder of a Stockholm family. Investigator Joona (pronounced Yona) Linna prevails upon psychiatrist Erik Maria Bark to hypnotize the lone survivor, the fifteen year old son who’s clinging to life in the hospital. Erik is reluctant, for the last time he used hypnosis on a patient, years back, the outcome was disastrous. He agrees, however, hoping the boy’s testimony will help police save the life of the sister who was away from home during the murder. It does, but in the process, a Pandora’s box of horrors is released when Erik’s own teenaged son, who has a life threatening blood disorder, is kidnapped.

The Hypnotist is a dark, chilling tale of desperation and madness, like most of its genre, and the labyrinth through which Erik and his wife must search is nightmarish, putting their already shaky marriage even closer to the edge of failure. There is an abundance of possible perpetrators, ranging from the boy in the hospital to Erik’s former patients, all of whom suffer from serious psychoses. As the story unfolds, the authors take readers from past to present and back again in series, switching from first to third person narration in the process. Commendably, they handle the flashbacks well, avoiding confusion and allowing readers to experience Erik’s terror as he desperately tries to locate his son. While some crime novels rely upon a host of red herrings, there are none here, as each of the possible suspects could readily have committed this crime.

Skillfully translated by Marlaine Delargy, The Hypnotist is worthy addition to the growing library of compelling Swedish thrillers.

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