Lars Kepler’s The Hypnotist starts with a bang; with the brutal murder – or perhaps slaughter is a better word – of a whole family in a Stockholm suburb. Two parents and their little daughter have been stabbed to death. An older brother, Josef Ek, 15 years old, is the only survivor in the house. He is in critical condition and extremely weak. All the members of the family, including Josef, have received multiple stab wounds. An older sister that has moved away has also survived the disaster.
The police investigator in charge of the case, Joona Linna (also featured in The Paganini Contract – the next book in the series) feels certain that the killer will try to kill the surviving sister. But there are no clues on the murder scene. He cannot find any motive. And the only witness, Josef Ek, is still in a coma. So he decides to try to have the boy hypnotized, hoping that Josef has information that can lead him to the murderer. A specialist in hypnotism, Dr. Erik Maria Bark, very reluctantly agrees to return to his trade after a 10-year absence to help solve the crime.
The hypnotism works. Dr. Bark is able to make Josef talk about the killing of his family. However, the story he tells is puzzling, very surprising and not at all what Erik Maria Bark and detective Joona Linna had expected. And – is it turns out – the hypnotism sets in motion a new and terrifying chain of events. Without warning, a tidal wave of unforeseen violence and inexplicable events hits Erik and his family. And soon Erik will have to confront his past in an unexpected way. Instead of solving the case, the hypnosis has transformed the situation, and now the violence escalates. A door to a tormented brain – a human abyss – has been opened. It can’t easily be closed.
The Hypnotist has been a best-seller in the Scandinavian countries. And the sequel, entitled “The Paganini Contract” has topped the lists as well. The Hypnotist is a book with a special and interesting story. The reason is that there is no Lars Kepler. Lars Kepler is a pseudonym, and when The Hypnotist (original title Hypnotisören, published in Sweden in 2009) was published in Sweden it soon became clear that this was an outstanding book and would become a best-seller. Thus the media started a regular witch-hunt in Sweden to try to find out who had written it. And several well-known Swedish authors, including Jan Guillou and Henning Mankell, had to publicly deny that they had written it. So in the end, the authors – Alexander and Alexandra Coelho Ahndoril, a married couple, 42 and 43 years old, had to go public.
The story in The Hypnotist is very intense and quite violent; there are graphic images, physical abuse, psychological abuse, revenge, gang violence, and more.
The plot is outstanding, original and smart – and much in the plot is in the end very different from what it initially seemed, and it is full of twists and turns that make it hard not to start biting nails. Lars Kepler and The Hypnotist keep readers guessing to the very end. I really enjoyed this book, and felt that it was as even better than I had expected – and as the reception in Scandinavia and elsewhere clearly indicates, this is a spectacular debut novel. The Hypnotist is a breathtaking thriller!
Praise for The Hypnotist:
“A carefully woven web of suspense, a sharp dialogue and a very inventive way indeed of dealing with how a tormented brain works.” Swedish Radio
“The book’s structure is tremendously skillful. The suspense and the uneasiness only increase, while I chew my nails shorter and shorter.” Aftonbladet
”Lars Kepler enthralls readers with The Hypnotist, just like Stieg Larsson did with the Millennium-series… I just sit there, spellbound, while racking my brains trying to figure out who Lars Kepler is. The man who, with his magic wand, has created one of the best crime novels I have ever sacrificed a good night’s sleep for.”
“A carefully woven web of suspense, a sharp dialogue and a very inventive way indeed of dealing with how a tormented brain works – add some Swedish ice to this mixture and what you get is Lars Kepler’s creation.”