Published: June 21, 2011
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 mesmerize 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 hypnotizes the victim, a long and terrifying chain of events begins to unfurl.
An international sensation, The Hypnotist is set to appear in thirty-seven countries, and it has landed at the top of bestseller lists wherever it’s been published—in France, Holland, Germany, Spain, Italy, Denmark. Now it’s America’s turn. Combining the addictive power of the Stieg Larsson trilogy with the storytelling drive of The Silence of the Lambs, this adrenaline-drenched thriller is spellbinding from its very first page.
The novel opens with a horrific crime: A father, mother and their 5-year-old daughter are butchered. The couple’s son, 15-year-old Josef, survives but has been stabbed hundreds of times and is unconscious. He may be able to identify the attacker and thus save other lives, so police summon a hypnotist in the hope that he can communicate with the boy despite his being in a coma.
Erik Maria Bark, the psychiatrist/hypnotist, is a man of many sorrows. He vowed 10 years earlier to give up hypnotism because of a tragedy that is not at first explained. He’s addicted to painkillers, his marriage is falling apart and his 14-year-old son has a blood disease that requires constant treatment. Even worse travails lie ahead once Bark breaks his vow and uses hypnosis to communicate with the survivor of the massacre.
In one of the first of the novel’s many surprises, Josef confesses under hypnosis to killing his family. Of course, the subconscious mind works in strange ways, and the confession may not be true. The boy then escapes from the hospital and may or may not be involved in the next horror, when Bark’s ailing son is kidnapped.
Bark teams up with a detective named Joona Linna to find both youths, one perhaps a mass murderer, the other possibly in the clutches of someone who hates his father. Suspects in the kidnapping include a group of violent criminals whom Bark had treated with hypnosis therapy and who were not always grateful for his efforts.
The deftly plotted story barrels along in more than a hundred short, swift scenes; it moves about as fast as a 500-page novel can. In one scene, Bark’s wife and her father are about to enter the basement of a house where her son may be held by his kidnapper. As the woman and her father descend into the darkness — with the reader shrieking “No, no, stop, you fools!” — the beam of their flashlight falls upon “the glass of a framed movie poster.” I take that poster to be homage to Thomas Harris’s landmark thriller, Silence of the Lambs,which as both book and movie was another memorable blending of evil and suspense.
I won’t tell you the ending but it’s worth the reading.
Great on the edge of your seat foreign crime drama. Loved it!