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This book – one of many to emerge out of the Scandinavian crime genre – is the first in a series featuring Detective Joona Linna.  Linna is investigating the brutal murder of a man, his wife and their daughter.  The family’s son, Josef,  has also been extremely badly injured, but the police need to speak with him to find out what happened, and possibly to prevent more bloodshed.  Josef however, is in no condition to talk, and Linna decides to bring in Erik Maria Bark, a former hypnotist who, ten years earlier, swore that he would never practice hypnosis again.  He reluctantly agrees to hypnotise Josef, but his decision leads to disaster, placing Erik and his family in danger.

I’m not really sure what to think about this book.  On the positive side, it was an easy read, with a sense of tension throughout.  I did find myself changing my mind about what had happened, and it was only towards the end when things finally came together.  I also really liked the Joona Linna character; he had a nice amount of heroism, balanced with a weariness brought on by the things he has witnessed in his career.

However, I was somewhat surprised when the perpetrator of the initial murder as mentioned above, was revealed early on, and it became apparent that that murder was not in fact the focus of the story, but more the catalyst for the events that followed.  There also seemed to be an unnecessary subplot, which muddied things slightly, and I felt that it could quite easily have been edited out, which might have tightened up the narrative somewhat.  The story is all a bit fantastical as well – I always think that the best thrillers and mysteries are the ones which you could actually imagine happening, whereas this one stretched the boundaries of credibility quite often.

I was quite surprised to find that the main character in the series was in fact Joona Linna, because for the most part of this book, he seemed a secondary character to Erik.  (I actually felt quite ambivalent towards Erik (and his wife Simone.)  However, maybe this explains why even though Erik featured more prominently than Joona, I didn’t feel as though his character was well developed.

All in all, something of a mixed bag.  I won’t be rushing out to buy the next book in the series, but because I liked the Linna character, I may well read further books at some point.

(Authors’ – Lars Kepler is actually a couple – website can be found here.)

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