THE HYPNOTIST - Lars Kepler
On the face of it, THE HYPNOTIST should be a book that's right up my alley, and yet, somehow it's taken quite a few attempts to get to the end of, and the feeling left has been one of vague confusion and a little disappointment.
Dr Erick Maria Bark was once a renowned hypnotherapist, doing ground breaking work with people with deep psychological issues. Until something went wrong, and Bark vowed never to use hypnosis again. A vow he keeps until many years later, when he's asked to use his technique on a young, teenage boy, horribly injured in a two part attack that has killed his father and then his mother and one sister hours later. Surviving the attack, but only just, Josef Ek is in a critical condition in hospital and Detective Inspector Joona Linna is desperate for clues, and to save the only remaining family member, older sister, Evelyn, who may have only survived because she wasn't at home on the night of the murders.
Herein probably lies a large part of my confusion. I never quite worked out the whys / hows and what thes associated with hypnotising a young, unconscious, critically injured man. The whole requirement to get him hypnotised in the first place seemed overtly convenient, a very odd set of circumstances designed to get the main storyline going. Which appeared to be more about Bark's own background and less about the murders for a fair proportion of the book. A background, which on the face of it, seemed to have a so-called professional therapist making some rather odd decisions when it comes to treating patients. Which background also needed to have a fraught home life, which was pre-destined to lead to a threat close to home, and a very odd feel good sort of an ending, after some rather overt violence and what can only be classed as a lot of slashing about - literal and figurative.
Part of the problem I had was not that Bark was a difficult character to empathise with, more so that he was such a difficult character to believe. The other part of the problem was the muddied focus. There was so much concentration on the backstory of Bark, on his previous patients, on his family life, that it was too easy to loose the central thread of his involvement. That there was this damaged, now mostly dead family, and a brother and sister who obviously had some sort of major back story. The level of violence, the madness inherent in the way that they died didn't seem plausible as a story device, when they only seemed to be there for the purposes of getting Back into the limelight.
The other part of the problem was with the plot arc which, frankly, got all over the place at points. Of course it doesn't help when just about everybody, including Bark, is overtly "damaged" ... which seemed to be code for shrill, daft and/or utterly self-obsessed. All in all I just couldn't shake that feeling of confusion - no idea what on earth this book was trying to say or achieve. And disappointed because there really is a sneaking feeling that this was an opportunity lost.
In the frigid clime of Tumba, Sweden, a gruesome triple homicide attracts the interest of Detective Inspector Joona Linna, who demands to investigate the murders. The killer is still at large, and there’s only one surviving witness—the boy whose family was killed before his eyes. Whoever committed the crimes wanted this boy to die: he’s suffered more than one hundred knife wounds and lapsed into a state of shock. Desperate for information, Linna sees only one option: hypnotism. He enlists Dr. Erik Maria Bark to mesmerise the boy, hoping to discover the killer through his eyes.
It’s the sort of work that Bark has sworn he would never do again—ethically dubious and psychically scarring. When he breaks his promise and hypnotises the victim, a long and terrifying chain of events begins to unfurl.