Friday, 23 March 2012

"The Hypnotist," by Lars Kepler

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Stuff and Nonsense by Amy Cockram is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.

This was one of the books that broke my resolution to read from home and not borrow so many library books.  In my defence, I have wanted to read this for a while.  I've so far not read any Scandinavian crime fiction, nor, to my shame, have I yet watched "The Killing," so it is about time that I discovered what the fuss was about.

Lars Kepler's novel opens with the discovery of some particularly gruesome murders (so don't do what I did and start reading this book while having breakfast).  A father is brutally killed in the locker room at a sports centre and, at their home, his wife and daughter have also been murdered, and his son has been left for dead.  The investigating detective, Joona Linna, enlists the help of a medical specialist, Erik Maria Bark, and persuades him to hypnotise the badly injured young boy in order to find clues that might help them locate and save the life of another sister.  Erik had made a promise some years ago not to practice hypnotism following a scandal involving members of his therapy group, and his reluctant breaking of this promise has traumatic consequences for his family.

I've had this blog post in process for a couple of days now because I didn't know what to write about this book.  Today I had a brainwave.  I decided to just tell you all that I didn't know what to say about it.  I've felt a little bit stuck in a rut on my blog posts recently, and I'm not sure how to get out of it.  So, because I didn't know what to write, I made a fatal mistake: I googled the book and happened to see other people's reviews.  In the past couple of years I think my confidence has been a bit low, and books and my blog have been my refuge - but now reading what other people thought of the book has now made me doubt myself.  I thought that I liked the book with some reservations, but I read some bad reviews and now I'm not sure.

However, I'm going to assert with confidence my own opinion - which was that I kind of liked it.  It kept me reading and wanting to find out what happened, which I still think is the best measure of a psychological thriller (and I do think it comes down more on the thriller side of crime than it does the whodunnit side, although there is a modicum of mystery).  It interweaves a couple of different plotlines, and the main criticism of other reviews seemed to be that it doesn't manage to do so very effectively.  I can see their point - the false leads where the storylines elide are sometimes a bit obvious - but it didn't spoil my enjoyment. 

What I did find annoying was the occasionally stupid behaviour that had me wanting to slap some of the characters - particularly Erik and his wife.  I also had a moment of frustration with the detective, Joona, when he had a particularly slow uptake on a clue.  I was way ahead of him.  I'm starting to realise that this is a hazard of reading a lot of crime novels.  It's not the same thing as saying that I would make a good detective - I am spectacularly unobservant - but you do become more aware of stylistic tricks and devices used by the crime writer.  Perhaps I need a break from reading crime novels.

So, in conclusion, meh.  Well, maybe that's a bit unfair and perhaps I am still finding that my memory of the book has been tainted by other people's reviews.  I enjoyed it while I was reading it, but since finishing it I have started wondering if I did enjoy it that much - which is actually quite an odd feeling.


  1. I've avoided the Scandinavian crime wave simply because everyone else is reading it, and I avoid hype - I've always wanted to be slightly different. I can't decide whether to give it a go.

  2. They say you shouldn't judge a book by its cover yet I find my decision on whether to buy a book dependent on how many stars it has been awarded usually on Amazon, backed up by Good Reads. Owning a Kindle has opened up a wave of choice now and one of my daily must dos is to find out what the Kindle Deal of the day is - an opportunity to try a new author at low cost even if it isn't a genre of book that I am used to. Its bad for my bank balance! particularly as usually the deal of the day is book 3 of a series and of course you need books 1 and 2 to read first....

    When I read a new book, I try to avoid reading any reviews until I have finished because I wish to avoid any spoilers and I also don't like to prejudice my feelings on a book so it is only when I have posted my review on Good Reads do I see what other people have said.

    I get cross with authors who write a good novel but then to all intents and purposes have got bored so decide to end it as quickly as possible so a book that has been much enjoyed is suddenly finished and I am left thinking what was the point of that? How could a book that I simply couldn't put down let me down? What the hell were you (author) thinking of? My tradition when I have finished a book is to throw it on the floor, don't ask! and obviously not something I can do with a kindle! but some books get thrown with more vigor than others!! there are a few authors who I would like to give a stern talking to! serious Mr/Mrs what the (rude word) were you thinking??

    Incidentally, the book you have reviewed is retailing for £3.99 for the Kindle Version and has a measly 3 stars on the amazon site. I have sent the free sample to my kindle. If it had been awarded 4.5 stars or above, I would probably have ordered it... I shall see what the sample is like and decide then.

  3. I've read very little Scandinavian crime as well, Annalisa - but that's more because I haven't got around to it yet, and not because I've avoided the hype. I've watched some Wallander - although the Kenneth Branagh incarnation - and read one, and that's about it. I can't say that "The Hypnotist" has inclined me towards reading more Scandinavian crime, although I do have a few more on my bookshelves to get around to (a couple more Wallanders, the first Stieg Larsson and a Nesbo).

    Mina, I don't normally read reviews either - but I made the mistake of doing so in this case because I got stuck in a rut in my blog writing. Big mistake. I don't tend to pay much attention to star ratings by others - I choose books if I think that the description/blurb sounds interesting, or if I've had a recommendation by someone.

    Have you tried the free sample yet? If you like star ratings, I'd probably give this a 3 star, which is my average rating for OK but not great.