The Hypnotist by a husband and wife team writing as Lars Kepler is the latest Swedish novel to gain widespread attention in the crime fiction world. It starts out with the brutal murder of a man, his wife and young daughter. His teenage son has also been terribly injured but is not dead and there is a scramble to find out what the boy, Josef Ek, saw. Naturally enough (<– sarcasm implied) the first thought of detective Joona Linna is to engage the services of a disgraced hypnotist to get inside the boy’s head. Dr Erik Maria Bark is actually a specialist dealing in the treatment of shock and associated trauma but Linna is only interested in his hypnotism skills and when it is discovered that Josef has an older sister who is still alive but may be in danger from the killers, Bark reluctantly agrees to hypnotise the lad. Not unsurprisingly things go wrong for pretty much everyone from that point onwards.
You need clues. You need time. You need a motive. You won’t have any of them.
This is the beginning of the publisher’s summary and your reaction to it will tell you whether or not this is the book for you. If it makes you want to read more then you’ll probably enjoy the book. If, like me, this makes you roll your eyes then you should look elsewhere. I should have read the summary first and avoided the book itself.
It’s not that it’s the most terrible book I’ve ever read, merely that it’s silly and very, very long. The plot hovers around the absurd end of the credibility spectrum which is OK for a thriller except there is more than a dash of soap opera in this mix which stretches the gaps between thrills. And I think for a thriller to be truly successful there has to be at least one character who is vaguely plausible as a real-world human being. That’s why ‘ordinary bloke who gets caught up in mayhem’ books are so popular; because readers can imagine what they might do themselves in such circumstances. Here I didn’t find any of the characters particularly believable and the more of their stories that were revealed the less credible I found them. Would an experienced detective turn to a hypnotist as his first port of call in a murder enquiry (there wasn’t much pretence at exhausting more routine investigative methods before turning to the less orthodox)? And if so would he choose someone who had been professionally discredited? I could just about buy that a disgraced hypnotist in Bark’s circumstances would allow himself to be talked into doing something he knew he shouldn’t do but his behaviour from that point on, as his family became involved in a parallel thread, was entirely ridiculous.
To me this book was a jumble of gore-infused violence, junk science and a highly implausible collection of psychopaths all focusing their attentions on one suburban family. When combined with fairly shallow characters and an awkward arrangement of plot threads the result was not to my taste at all It read more like a Hollywood treatment than anything else and I don’t imagine I’ll remember a single detail in a couple of months. If it had been a print book I’d have stopped reading before the end, as it was the lovely narration by Eamonn Riley was enough to keep me vaguely entertained while vacuuming and doing other hum drum chores. But only just.
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My rating 2/5
Translator Ann Long
Narrator Eamonn Riley
Publisher Harper Collins 
ISBN N/A (downloaded from audible.com)
Length 17 hours 4 minutes
Format audio (mp3)
Book Series #2 in the Joona Linna series (though as far as I know the first book is not yet available in English)
Source I bought it