Fresh Blood

Name: Lars Kepler

Title of Book: The Hypnotist

'‘The Hypnotist’ is the stuff nightmares are made of. '

Early one morning, Erik Maria Bark is woken from his bed. A call from the hospital requests his presence. A young boy has been admitted with stab wounds all over his body. His father, mother and sister have been brutally murdered. He is the only survivor. What they want from Erik is to hypnotise the boy quickly so that he can give the police some piece of evidence that lies deep in his subconscious: but Erik promised himself he would never hypnotise ever again and it is a promise he has kept for ten years - until tonight. As the truth emerges, Erik finds that he has made himself a target of this heinous crime.

A few days later, Erik’s son is kidnapped from the family home. His wife, Simone, was drugged and through the haze watched her son being dragged from the appartment. Is this kidnapping connected to the murders of this innocent family? With a medical condition that could be fatal to their son, Erik must find his boy - and quickly. Requesting the help of the detective investigating the murders, Joona Linna acts like the Rottweiler he is credited to be and is soon tracking down, possibly not one, but two serial killers.

‘The Hypnotist’ is the stuff nightmares are made of.

Firstly, I will reveal the publishing world’s worst kept secret – Lars Kepler is a figment of the imagination for the married Swedish couple who write under this pseudonym. I had been warned that this novel would not be a comfortable read; that its darkness was all consuming, however that is what us crime readers seem to enjoy these days. And there is certainly bleakness aplenty in this book. From the very beginning, the description of the slaughtered family propels you immediately into a nightmare. The book starts during the lead up to Christmas, finishing on Christmas Eve but there is nothing to suggest from any of the characters that this is likely to be a ‘merry’ time and certainly the ‘goodwill to all men’ appears to have been discarded!

It is very early on in the novel that you realise that not everything is harmonious in the marriage between Erik and his wife, Simone. A long ago affair keeps the two adrift from the other despite there being a bond between them. It is through scenes with a very human heart in the writing that you see a marriage in crisis, rocked by betrayal and hurt. But can they work together without bickering and throwing accusations to find their son?

‘The Hynoptist’ is a gripping novel. It is with great experience that the writers show that, despite us believing the book is going to be about one case, it is in fact about another thing entirely. They simply show that things can happen to people through their own actions, that something that happened long ago can still have a consequence today.

With short, sharp chapters, Kepler continues the momentum until all parties have to encounter their own private ‘Haunted House’. For me, the only part of the novel that sagged was Erik’s experiences ten years ago. Although I can see that this information was needed by the reader I felt it would have been better to disperse Erik’s past amongst the chapters rather than stopping the action and giving his past in one big block. I also hope that we will see more of Joona Linna in future books. Apart from that, I would say that ‘The Hypnotist’ is definitely a winner and will have many people shivering in their beds, hypnotised and unable to put this book down.

Be prepared to have all the lights on when you read this baby!

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating

Fresh Blood Questionnaire

1) How would you classify your writing, and do you consciously try to write to a certain style or genre?
We had the idea of writing a crime novel that fulfils the demands of the Scandinavian tradition, but at the same time we wanted to bring in something new. When we decided to write together we gave ourselves a challenge – is it possible for us to transfer a filmic atmosphere into words, ensuring high tempo and strong engagement? That was at least what we were aiming for – a read as thrilling as a movie and as deep as a novel. We wanted the readers to feel that they are there, inside the fiction, when reading Lars Kepler, participating, almost feeling as if they can influence the course of events.
2) What type of crime novels do you like to read? Do you prefer series or standalone?
We think it’s important that each novel stands alone, but series are of course an interesting challenge, because the writer has the possibility to tell a huge, epic story at same time.
3) What was the seed that gave birth to Lars Kepler? You have given him likes/dislikes and have made him almost human. What was your reasoning behind fleshing out a person who does not exist?
As soon as we came up with the name Lars Kepler he started to live and we made a Photoshop picture of him. He doesn’t look a bit like us. He’s fifty-three years old, has a full beard and shy, but friendly eyes. He’s very withdrawn, but we’re getting to know him and he’s slowly turning in to a family member. Lars was once a teacher and had a family, but now he’s a really lonely man who works long nights at a shelter for homeless people. He writes all day and is very interested in police work, literature about forensic techniques and police tactics and he has a box where he collects exciting investigations, cold cases and mysteries.
4) ‘The Hypnotist’ deals in depth with hypnotism. Have you both been interested in hypnotism for a long time? How much research did you have to do about hypnotism before you started writing the book?
Alexander’s brother is a professional hypnotist and writes books about practical hypnosis – so we had a perfect source. We read of course a lot of other books about hypnosis and Alexander has actually been hypnotized himself, once. It’s really remarkable. A person who is being hypnotized is in a state of the deepest relaxation and looks as if he is asleep. But if you look at the person’s brain activity, you see something completely different – the brain is totally awake, extremely active and alert.
5) It is difficult enough writing when only one person is involved (which you both know about having published books separately) but do you find it difficult or easier that both of you contribute to the book? Does being husband and wife make the dynamics of writing more interesting and do you find yourselves discussing ideas at awkward moments?
We have been married for a long time, we met nineteen years ago and we really love to do things together, but every attempt to write together has ended with big fights over clashing literary styles and metaphors. But since we became Lars Kepler there’s a kind of truce - we’ve actually had a constant creative rush since then, it’s amazing.
6) You are both novelists in your own right. With such a runaway success as ‘The Hypnotist’ do you plan to continue writing together or will you do different projects in future?
We’re currently writing the third novel about detective inspector Joona Linna and we’re happier than ever. It’s incredibly satisfying and enjoyable to write together. Most writers are really lonely. You can’t share your inner world with anybody for years while you’re writing a novel. But now, since Lars Kepler appeared, everything is different. So it will probably be hard to return to the creative loneliness afterwards but who knows …
7) Despite the tension in the main story, you have also given a great deal of the book to the development of the Bark family. Do you feel it important to build up the characters that are involved peripherally to the main case?
It’s probably the most important task you have as a writer of crime fiction, because no matter how interesting a plot you create the story will not be exciting if you don’t care about the characters. We are really interested in rich and complex characters. It takes a lot of planning, but then when you sit in front of your computer they are suddenly alive, it just happens before your eyes and all you have to do is write down what they do and say as fast as you possibly can.
8) Will you be using any of the characters from ‘The Hynoptist in upcoming novels and what can we expect from Lars Kepler in the future?
Even though Detective Inspector Joona Linna is the main character of the whole series, it’s important for us that each Lars Kepler novel stands alone and has new plots. In the first two books Joona Linna is something of a mystery, but in the third you will learn all about his past and in the forth novel his mystery is a part of the main plot.
9) With ‘Scandinavian crime’ dominating the book charts the world over do you have your own theory on why people have gone crazy for the Scandinavian noir crime novel?
Scandinavia seems probably both exotic and recognisable and that’s an attractive combination. Sweden was for a while a kind of example of a good society, and that creates of course a curiosity about what is hidden beneath the surface. Another thing is of course the long tradition of writing and reading contemporary crime novels in Sweden and maybe the total darkness wintertime has something to do with it …
10) What is your favourite movie adaptation of a crime novel?
There are so many, but The Talented Mister Ripley is extraordinary.
11) Without giving away the plot, which book included your favourite plot twist of all time?
I really think that William Blattys The Exorcist was a very good book. It starts as a traditional crime novel but develops into something that nobody had seen before.
12) What is your ultimate favourite read crime of all time?
Probably something from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.