THE HYPNOTIST

Written by Lars Kepler

Review written by LJ Hurst

Initially, L. J. Hurst worked in the backrooms of the media industry. He now divides his time between work for an international scientific publisher and a rather more British independent bookseller. In years past he was a regular attendee at the Shots on the Page Festivals from whence Shots Mag sprung


THE HYPNOTIST
Blue Door
RRP: £16.99
Released: 12th May 2011
Hbk
“Lars Kepler” is a pseudonym; more than that it, hides a husband and wife writing team like, say, the British Nicci French. Better than that, Lars Kepler writes about Sweden, recalling that definitive pair of Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö and their detective Martin Beck. Lars Kepler may have a way to go to match them but THE HYPNOTIST is their first book, good in itself and with the potential to get better.

Told in the present tense (and the only book in which I’ve found this credible and tolerable), the eponymous hypnotist is Erik Maria Bark, a psychologist who has had to give up his research because of misunderstandings about his methods and the problems of his clients. After a family slaughter he is called in by Detective Joona Linna: a boy is lying in hospital with terrible wounds and the boy’s sister is missing, perhaps Bark’s methods can help the boy identify where the sister might be before the serial killer finds her. What the boy says turns everything upside down. No matter whether the boy’s account is true or false the session with the psychologist has opened a Pandora’s Box of horrors and the job of the police is made much worse. That becomes obvious when police returning to the hospital room find it become an abattoir and the boy missing.
 
The story splits, partly following Bark, who has problems at home and a son who needs regular medical treatment; partly following Joona Linna and the official investigation. Their paths are bound to cross, criss-cross and return to the same path, especially after Bark’s son goes missing.

Like Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö THE HYPNOTIST shows the police working at their best, and their most farcical, particularly those banes of Martin Beck’s life, the uniformed branch. Sent out in their car to guard a witness, two police never make it, later to be found locked in a cellar where they have been kidnapped almost without a fight.

As the story develops and the reasons for Bark’s problems are described in a long flashback – probably too long – some of the motives for today’s terrors become clear. Others seem to lie in a spirit of unreasoning hatred of the world – Joona Linna and Bark have to ask themselves where a person of such feeling would go and what they would do. It is in that destination that everything ends.
 
Some people feel out of place, some are out of place. The psychologist has to try to make them feel they have somewhere of comfort they can go. The police officer has to find them in their lair and repair the damage the psychologist cannot stop from happening. That is what THE HYPNOTIST is about.

(Translated by Marlaine Delargy)

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