Title: The Hypnotist
Author: Lars Kepler
Release Date: June 21, 2011
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Genre: Crime Fiction
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Detective Inspector Joona Linna is called to investigate three grisly murders, and the violence he sees shocks him. But somehow, there is a survivor – a young boy who saw his family killed before his eyes. The boy is weak and near death, but Joona must know what he saw. He calls in Dr. Erik Maria Bark, a hypnotist, and asks him to hypnotize the boy. Though Dr. Bark made a promise ten years ago to never use hypnotism again after tragic consequences, he relents for these extraordinary circumstances. But what Erik can’t know is that breaking his promise will have unimaginable consequences for himself and his family.
The Hypnotist is a crime fiction novel set in Tumba, Sweden, and it has all the twists and turns readers have come to expect from Scandinavian mystery novels. There are actually two main storylines running parallel in this novel. The first is Detective Inspector Joona Linna’s case and the investigation into the gruesome slaying of three members of a family. The sheer violence against them is bad enough, but what Erik uncovers during the hypnotism is even worse. It’s chilling and unpleasant, but Kepler wrote it incredibly well.
The second storyline in The Hypnotist has to do with Erik and his history with hypnotism. From the beginning, it’s clear that Erik had some sort of bad experience with it, but it’s only towards the middle of the novel that Kepler takes the reader back to see what it was. It’s clear that experience damaged Erik personally and professionally; he’s not entirely stable, and relies an inordinate amount on medication. Unfortunately, these storylines aren’t always balanced well. Rather than jumping back and forth, keeping the reader interested in both, Kepler focuses heavily on one, than the other, such that the movement is a bit jarring, especially if the reader prefers one plotline over the other.
Erik is also a difficult character to like. He just isn’t a pleasant person; he is cruel to his wife, and is very self-involved. While the overall storyline of the book was gripping, his story with hypnotism wasn’t as engaging. Perhaps it was because the character was distasteful, and therefore it was difficult to care about the root of his damaged psyche, but he just was not an appealing person.
That being said, The Hypnotist kept me hooked. Even during the slower parts involving Erik’s past, I still kept turning the pages, desperate to know how everything turned out. The blood is a little extreme in this novel, so if you’re faint of heart, I’d stay away. It’s not the best example of Scandinavian crime fiction, but if you enjoy the genre as much as I do, you may want to seek this novel out.