The Hypnotist: A Book Review

Who, me? I just read what NPR tells me to.
Okay, not exactly. But recently, yes.

I heard about Lars Kepler’s The Hypnotist on NPR last week. It sounded intriguing, if a little gruesome. And that’s exactly what it ended up being. Except for the part where I was totally disappointed with the ending.

The Plot: A family is murdered, no…slaughtered in Stockholm. The murderer leaves one of them, the 15 year old son, for dead, but he’s later found barely clinging to life. The detective on the case, Joona Linna, brings in hypnosis specialist Erik Maria Bark (who 10 years previous had sworn he would never hypnotize again) to question the boy, who is too far in shock to respond to police questioning. When they finally question the boy through hypnosis, they find…well, it’s really surprising, that’s all. 
But that plot line is all but abandoned about halfway through when Erik Bark’s son is kidnapped. And I still don’t really understand how the two lines are related.

While the book served its purpose to simultaneously freak me out and show me that life (and crime) is never simple, I was left wanting more, and not necessarily in a good way. It was incomplete; I wanted 25 more pages. Just 25 to help me understand the motivation behind all the crimes that take place. Just 25 to tie the pieces all together, because I know they’re supposed to be more connected than Kepler left them. I was disappointed, because I had been adequately intrigued by the gruesomeness of the book, though I usually can’t stomach those kinds of bloody descriptions. I had enjoyed the POV shift, the writing, the fact that most of the book was in present tense, the short chapters…everything about that book had been technically sound.

But it was just lacking. Things that had been brought up in the beginning and middle of the book that I thought would have some impact on the plot turned out to be completely irrelevant (such as Joona Linna’s flashbacks about an accident/his father, which I still don’t understand…and I was paying attention).

The authors (Lars Kepler is the pen name of a Swedish husband & wife writing “team”) wove an interesting motif through the book: most of the violence and crime was carried out by women and children. It threw me for a loop, and I was shocked, mortified, and TOTALLY into it. But then the authors seemed to add plot points simply for the sake of establishing it as a motif. For instance, at one point Erik and Joona come across a woman who has two naked boys in a room with a video camera trained on the bed. But why is that included in the book? I understand that it contributes to the motif and the shock value of said motif, but it literally carried nothing else out, and ended up making me look for the reason it was included. There wasn’t one, as far as I could tell.

And the ending seemed rushed, like the authors knew they needed to end it and knew people would want to know the resolution, so they just shoved it at us. But honestly, like I said before, it could’ve done with another 25 pages. It wouldn’t have bothered me, since I’d already invested hours into reading the 500 page book.

Maybe I just didn’t get it. I want to doubt that, because I like to think of myself as a semi-intelligent person who can keep up with a murder mystery, but I can’t be sure. And even if I did get it, and the gaps really are present, you should still read it.  Maybe we can feel indignant about its flaws together.

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3 thoughts on “The Hypnotist: A Book Review

  1. I actually really enjoyed this book and I felt like the gaps between certain events and character story lines was a good aspect of it rather than leaving me unsatisfied. Joona Linna said he’d find erik’s son and the rest of the journey was complex and unfinished, just like it would be in a real situtaion. There are so many occurences that are only briefly encountered in all of our lives, and on a very specific hunt for their son I think Keplar did an excellent job of keeping up interest and making us think of where things might be headed. I do agree that the Josek EK storyline could’ve been more played out or at least relevant to Benjamin’s disappearance, but when I think of it as the (rather large and encompassing) event that opened a box of trouble and created a new sequence of events then I feel content with it.

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