A gruesome triple homicide attracts the interest of Detective Joona Linna of the National Crime Police. There's only one surviving witness--the boy whose family was killed before his eyes. The only problem is, he's lapsed into a catatonic state.
Desperate for information, Linna enlists trauma expert Dr. Erik Maria Bark, hoping to hypnotize the boy and uncover the secrets locked in his memory. But, scarred by past experiences, Bark has sworn never to use hypnosis again. When the doctor breaks his promise, he triggers a terrifying chain of events that will put all their lives in jeopardy.
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Kepler / THE HYPNOTIST
Early Tuesday morning, December 8
Erik’s phone is ringing. Before he is fully awake he says, “Balloons and streamers.”
His heart is racing from being awakened so suddenly. Erik doesn’t know why he said that. He has no idea what he had been dreaming about.
In order not to wake Simone, he creeps out of the bedroom and closes the door before he answers.
“Hello, this is Erik Maria Bark.”
A detective by the name of Joona Linna tells him that he needs his help. Erik is only half awake as he listens.
“I’ve heard you’re good at dealing with trauma,” the detective says.
“Yes,” Erik replies simply.
He takes a Tylenol as he listens. The detective explains that he needs to question someone, a fifteen-year-old boy who has witnessed a double murder. The problem is that the teenager has been seriously injured and is in an unstable condition. He’s in a state of shock, and he hasn’t yet regained consciousness.
“Who’s treating him?” Erik asks.
“She’s highly competent. I’m sure she’ll be able to—”
“It was her idea to call you,” the detective interrupts. “We need your help, and we probably don’t have much time.”
Erik goes back into the bedroom to get his clothes. A streetlight shines in between the blinds. Simone is lying on her back, watching him with an oddly vacant expression.
“I was trying not to wake you,” he says softly.
“Who was that?” she asks.
“A police officer . . . a detective. I didn’t catch his name.”
“What did he want?”
“I have to go to Karolinska,” he replies. “They need help with a teenage boy.”
“What time is it, anyway?”
She looks at the alarm clock and closes her eyes. He can see the lines made by folds in the sheet across her freckled shoulders.
“Go back to sleep, Simone,” he whispers.
Erik carries his clothes out into the hallway, turns the light on, and quickly gets dressed. A length of steel suddenly flashes behind him. Erik turns and sees that his son has hung his ice skates from the handle of the front door so that he won’t forget them. Even though Erik is in a hurry, he goes over to the closet and digs out the protective guards. He fastens them to the sharp blades, then puts them down on the hall carpet and leaves.
It’s three o’clock in the morning on Tuesday, December 8. Snow is falling slowly from the black sky. There’s no wind at all, and the heavy flakes land sleepily on the deserted street. He turns the key in the ignition, and a soft wave of music rolls through the car: Miles Davis, Kind of Blue.
He drives the short distance through the sleeping city, down Luntmakar Street and along Svea Boulevard toward Norrtull. The water of Brunns Lake is a large, dark expanse beyond the snow. He drives slowly into the hospital campus, between the understaffed Astrid Lindgren Children’s Hospital and the maternity ward, past the radiotherapy department and psychiatric unit, and parks in his usual spot in front of neurosurgery. The glow of the streetlights reflects off the windows of the large complex. There are hardly any cars in the parking lot. Blackbirds flit through the gloom around the trees; the flapping of their wings breaks the silence.
He swipes his card, taps in the six-digit code, and enters the lobby, then takes the elevator up to the fifth floor and walks down the hall. The fluorescent lights reflect off the blue linoleum floor, making it look like ice. Now that the initial adrenaline rush is fading, he starts to feel tired. He passes an operating room and walks past the doors to the huge hyperbaric chamber, then says hello to a nurse as he recalls what the detective told him over the phone: A teenage boy has knife wounds all over his body. The police attempted to speak to him, but his condition deteriorated quickly.
Two uniformed police officers are standing outside the door to Ward 18. Erik can see a trace of anxiety cross their faces as he approaches. Maybe they’re just tired, he thinks as he stops in front of them and shows them his ID. They glance at it, and then one of them presses the button to make the door swing open.
Erik walks in and shakes hands with Daniella Richards, noting the tension in her face and the stress in the way she moves.
“Grab some coffee,” she says.
“Do we have time?” Erik asks.
“I’ve managed to get the bleeding from his liver under control,” she replies.
A man in his mid-forties, dressed in jeans and a black jacket, is tapping the frame of the coffee machine. His blond hair is messy, and his lips are clenched. Erik wonders if he might be Daniella’s husband, Magnus. He’s never met him, just seen a picture in her office.
“Is that Magnus?” Erik asks, gesturing toward the man.
“What?” She looks both amused and surprised.
“I thought maybe Magnus had come with you.”
“No,” she says, laughing.
“Are you sure? Maybe I should ask him,” Erik jokes, and starts to walk toward the man.
Daniella’s cell phone rings, and she’s still laughing as she takes it out. “Stop it, Erik,” she says, as she answers and puts the phone to her ear. “Yes, Daniella here.”
She listens but can’t hear anything.
She waits a few seconds, then ends the call with a sarcastic “Have a nice day,” slips the phone in her pocket, and follows Erik.
He’s already walked over to the blond man. The coffee machine is bubbling and wheezing.
“Have some coffee,” the man says, trying to hand Erik a mug.
The man tastes the coffee and smiles, revealing dimples in his cheeks.
“It’s good,” he says, and tries to give Erik the mug again.
“I don’t want any.”
The man drinks some more as he looks at Erik.
“Could I borrow your phone?” he suddenly asks. “I left mine in my car.”
“You want to borrow my phone?” Erik asks.
The blond man nods and looks at him with pale eyes, as gray as polished granite.
“You’re welcome to borrow mine,” Daniella says.
“Don’t mention it.”
The blond man takes her phone.
“I promise you’ll get it back,” he says.
“You’re the only person who ever calls me on it anyway,” she teases.
He laughs and moves away.
“He must be your husband,” Erik says.
“A girl can always dream,” she says, glancing at the tall man.
Daniella has been rubbing her eyes, and her silver-gray eyeliner is streaked across one cheek.
“Shall I take a look at the patient?” Erik asks.
She nods. “By all means.”
“Seeing as I’m here,” he quickly adds.
“Erik, I’d love to hear what you think. I’m not sure about this one.”
Reading Group Guide
Fifteen-year-old Josef Ek lies in a hospital bed, his body covered in countless knife wounds. He has survived a gruesome triple murder that took the lives of his parents and his little sister. In deep shock, he is the sole living witness to the crime. Desperate for information and sure that the killer is out for more blood, Detective Inspector Joona Linna opts for a risky route of interrogation: hypnotism. It's the only way to discover what the young victim saw.
Joona lures Dr. Erik Maria Bark to the case, despite the doctor's controversial reputation. It's the sort of work Erik has sworn he would never do again. At the pinnacle of his career as a psychotherapist, Eric made breakthrough progress with severely traumatized patientsuntil one patient's revelations went too far. Breaking his vow to abandon hypnosis, he now begins to probe Josef's memories, unleashing a terrifying chain of events that makes his own family the target of lethal vengeance.
Unfolding against the backdrop of Sweden's haunting landscapes, The Hypnotist marks the American debut of a mesmerizing thriller that has topped bestseller lists throughout Europe. Taking the genre to new heights, each chapter delivers a heart-stopping turn in a world where the mind may be the deadliest weapon.
The questions and discussion topics that follow are designed to enhance your reading of Lars Kepler's The Hypnotist. We hope they will enrich your experience as you explore this provocative novel.
1. At first, what did your instincts tell you about the murder of Josef's family? What were your initial theories?
2. In chapter 17, Erik says that patients always tell the truth under hypnosis, but that their perception of what is true might be skewed. Did you believe that Josef's memories were accurate? Has your family ever disagreed about the accuracy of your memories, especially as they relate to blame and fate?
3. Lydia is just one of several powerful sadists featured in The Hypnotist. What is the source of her power over others? What separates fear from courage in this novel?
4. What accounts for the tremendous differences between Evelyn and Josef? What does their story tell us about nature and nurture, and about rage and the rational mind?
5. What was Erik hungry for when he began his flirtation with Maja? Would you have stayed married to him if you had been Simone?
6. Who is better at predicting human behavior: law enforcer Joona or therapist Erik?
7. How might the Bark family have been described from Benjamin's point of view? What forges the bond between him and his girlfriend, Aida? Are they refugees from a similar type of insecurity?
8. Discuss the structure of the novel. How was your reading affected by the short, cinematic chapters, told almost entirely in the present tense? How did the voice shift when Erik began narrating his own memories in the chapter called "Ten Years Ago," between chapters 74 and 75?
9. How did Kennet influence Simone's expectations of the world, and of her husband? How does Kennet's approach to fatherhood compare to Erik's?
10. Is Eva evil or simply self-obsessed? How did your opinion of her change throughout the novel?
11. The closing scene shows Erik's family transformed. Without the terrifying kidnapping, would they have ever learned to trust one another again? Why did the roots of their unhappiness run so deep?
12. How does the Scandinavian landscape of The Hypnotist (and of other bestselling crime novels from that part of the world) set the ideal tone for intense, suspenseful tales?
13. What does the novel say about the nature of cruelty? Where is the line drawn between mental illness (in some cases resulting from abuse) and a purely criminal mind? Ultimately, what did the killers in The Hypnotist want from their victims?
14. The identity of "Lars Kepler" was revealed before the U.S. publication of The Hypnotist. How did it affect your reading to know that these scenes were created by a husband-and-wife team?
Guide written by Amy Clements / The Wordshop, Inc.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Picture opening the cover then being in the climax of the story! That's what you get in the Hypnotist. Raw emotion, courage, mayhem and that's all in chapter one.. so keep reading I wait up for you, because I have'nt slept in days any way....
Erik Maria Bark and Joona Linna are the two protagonists in this exciting murder/kidnapping potpourri of a novel. Erik is the doctor who is a hypnosis specialist and Joona Linna is the detective who dedicates himself to solving the murder/kidnapping mystery. This book is 477 pages, so, it's a pregnant novel. This novel begins with a gruesome murder in Tumba, Sweden involving the Ek family. The father was murdered in the gym locker room and the killer murdered the mother and daughter at their home. The little five year old daughter had her body severed. The slaughter of the Ek family was gruesome. The 15 year old son, Josef Ek, survived about 100 knife wounds but lives. There is later a kidnapping involving the son of Erik and Simone Bark, Benjamin. Benjamin suffers from a rare blood disorder and his parents are in a frenzy to find the kidnapper. "The Hypnotist" is a hard core thriller and the book does not let up on the suspense. You will be in a race to finish the ending. I read this book in two days!
Absolutely loved this book. So much easier to read than "The Girl Who" books (and I adored them). Swedish thriller/crime authors are great and this book had the perfect mix of everything a good thriller should have. Twists and turns, just when you think you've figured it out, you find out you're wrong! Finished it in one day, couldn't put it down.
The Hypnotist by Lars Kepler is a bestselling novel of suspense set in Sweden. The story revolves around Detective Joona Linna and Dr. Erik Maria Bark and his wife and son. Early in the book, a triple homicide is discovered and there is one surviving witness. However, the boy has suffered severe trauma and is in a state of shock. Linna convinces Dr. Bark to hypnotize the boy in order to find the murderer before he strikes again. Dr. Bark has sworn never to practice hypnosis again, but eventually agrees in the hopes of saving a young woman's life. When Dr. Bark breaks his promise and they hypnotize the boy, a chain of terrifying events begins to take place. This novel has joined the ranks of bestselling crime novels from Scandinavia. I found that the plot of the story had great potential but the writing was lacking. It felt like the book was just dragging along. I lost interest early on, but continued reading in the hopes that the storyline would begin to pick up. It did eventually, but not to the point I had hoped. The characters of Joona Linna, Erik Maria Bark, Simone, and the other major players were well developed, but some aspects left the reader asking questions. For example, the reader learns early on that Linna is a driven detective that will not let a case go unsolved. The reason behind this is a sense of personal guilt over something that happened in his past, but the reader never gets to find out what that secret is. Other aspects of the writing were lacking as well. The plot of the novel was interesting but the way the story unfolded was very predictable and all of the "twists" were able to be foreseen. The ending of the story is also lacking - it does not give the reader any type of closure. It leaves the characters and their relationships with one another in limbo with no resolution. I found this novel to be mediocre at best. The plot definitely had potential, but the writing was lacking and the book could have been so much more. I bought this book after reading the other reviews and the description, but I wish I would have saved my money for something worthwhile. This is a book worth reading for fun and for fans of Scandinavian crime fiction such as Steig Larsson's Millennium Trilogy, but I would recommend that you borrow it and not waste your time and money buying it.
I am a fan of police/detective mysteries, and this one had me interested from the beginning. Unfortunately I could not overlook several logical flaws that I came across. The most annoying was the bizarre behavior of the retired policeman father-in-law of the protagonist who not only decided to do his own investigation without the help of those already involved but also to include his daughter in several incredibly dangerous situations. This along with a couple of others had me disengaged by the end. Stieg Larsson's writing is superior by far.
Tiresome and boring with terribly drawn characters and the dumbest police detective I have ever seen. After "The Man from Beijing," the tattooed girl trilogy, "The Snowman" and now "The Hypnotist" I am swearing off all Scandinavian writers. Scandinavians must all be psycho homicidal nut-cases.
For the sake of others who have not read the book, would the reviewers please not describe everything that happens??
I enjoy Swedish mystery writers for their ability to tell a gory tale without asking us to wallow in the blood and sex for the entire book, a talent which a lot of American authors either do not possess or their publishers think will not sell books. We need to use our imaginations more and not be so influenced by TV and video games. Europeans, in general, I think have a better handle on this. Good book. Recommend.
This book is the best mystery book I have ever read! I am a good predictor but this book has baffled me every time because there are so many mysteries that keep you sitting on the edge. I have even been so anxious I wanted to pull over when driving and continue. I love reading on my Nook because it enables me to look up definitions as I read. I hate I can not share as you can a book! This book would make an excellent movie. You will defintely want to research von williebrand disease before reading....or not! Marie of Florida
If you like a fast moving action packed mystery, like Jo Nesbo's Harry Hole or Lee Child's Jack Reacher, you won't find it within the Hypnotist. This book is twice the length necessary to make it a good story, instead, the authors chose to use lots of fluff and filler. Not the worst book I've read and certainly not the best either.
This book starts as a thriller becomes a mystery and through twists and turns reverts back to being a thriller. It kept me interested even though some of it seemed farfetched and contrived. Definitely not as good as "The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo" and the other two. This author is not as talented, but writes well.
Hard to follow at times! Characters were not well developed! I almost quit two thirds of the way through this book.
At first the book really had my attention. Got very long and confusing, the pokemon part was not the least bit interesting. I wish this were a lend me book so another reader would not have to purchase it.
Started it on a cross-country flight yesterday, had to finish it today.
Could have told the story with about 200 less words. There were a few times where i almost stopped but not a bad story.
To compare this book with the Stieg Larsson trilogy is to insult the late Mr. Larsson. The story line was poorly constructed and delivered without a consistent thread. It was as if there were two writers who were compiling their singular versions of the same story into one somewhat haphazard format. Wait! There are two writers responsible for this mess. Well, that explains it. There are plenty of good books out there; this is just not one of them.
Personally, I am sorry the critics compared these authors to Steig Larsson and Roslund and Hellstrom in order to sell the book. What starts out as a strong read dwindles into every character and every subplot having the same sexual references applied to them. For me, it was like the authors were stuck on two or three words that they just couldn't get off of. Sad and Disappointing. Anonymous
I devoured this book in a matter of days (I think just two). I was meant to be reading something else, but I took this book with me to the doctor's office and had trouble putting it down. The cover says that it's like the Stieg Larsson series and they're right in some ways -- I loved that series and I didn't like it at all. It was violent and troubling and there were a few parts of the book that probably could have (should've?) been edited out, just like the Millennium trilogy. But overall, I liked the book and I really quite liked the main characters. The plot is quite involved and the bad guys don't show themselves until near the end -- but there's a moment when, after you've read everything, you suddenly realize exactly what happens -- and then you find out it's worse. Yes, as I said before, there's violence and it definitely borders on graphic (and again, I draw comparisons to the Millennium trilogy). Which is partly why I both love and hate this book. It's about a hypnotist, but it's more than that. It's about murder and the brain, about solving a crime and about getting inside the heads of everyone involved (from the cop, who I liked quite a bit, to the wife of the hypnotist, to his son to the bad guys themselves). Fans of Scandinavian mysteries will like this book, as well fans of Larsson's Millennium trilogy. But even if their of those things types of books grip you, pick up The Hypnotist, because it's definitely a thrilling read.Apparently (according to the LT reviews) I'm one of the few people who liked it. Maybe it's because I read a lot of Scandinavian fiction, but if you think this book is slow and meandering, you've never read Between Summer's Longing and Winter's End, because compared to that book, The Hypnotist is a first rate super fast thriller! Though I will confess to liking both books more than Larsson's.
Really enjoyed the book. I liked the way they looked at the same event from about 4 different ways. a 500 page book that only took me about 1 week to read. surprise ending that kept my thinking the whole time
The crime/mystery/thriller part of this was really good. The aspect that focused on Erik's relationship with his wife was terrible.As far as the thriller part of the plot goes, I was surprised to find out "who done it." I didn't see it coming until the same time Erik figured it out. I thought that part was really well-done, and carried the story.The relationship between Erik and Simone made me struggle to keep reading. Every relationship has issues, but they never talked to each other about ANYTHING during the entire book. Erik let Simone think things were happening that weren't, and he pretty much kept her out of the loop of what was happening. I wanted to slam their heads together.And the dialogue. I don't know if it was the translation, since I'm assuming this was originally written in Swedish, but something seemed awkward in almost every single conversation in the book. I couldn't pin it down, it just felt awkward to me.Finally, the massive flashback in the middle of the book really disrupted the flow. I learned from it, and it added to the plot, but it was in a different tense and point of view and it threw me off a bit.All-in-all, this was an okay read. If not for the action I may not have bothered finishing it. But I needed to know the answers!
I found this pretty poorly written, too long and very over-praised. It took at least 200 pages to develop any suspense, at least for me.
A school teacher, his wife, and his daughter are brutally murdered in Tumba, Sweden. His fifteen year old son survives the attack but is hospitalized and in a state of shock. Detective Joona Linna asks psychiatrist Dr. Erik Maria Bark to hypnotize the boy to gain information about the murderer. Bark swore off hypnotism ten years ago after his last hypnotic experience resulted in tragedy. He reluctantly gives in to Detective Linna, only to set off a terrible chain of events.This book started off with a bang - ten pages in and I was on the edge of my seat. There are so many mysteries interwoven into the plot, not just who killed the teacher and his family. The story takes so many twists and turns that my head was spinning. I'm giving it four stars instead of five because there were a few implausible points in the story. For instance, Linna lets Erik, a civilian, go with him into all kinds of dangerous situations and there is also a retired detective who takes his civilian adult daughter with him on his investigations. I don't know that much about Sweden but I'm pretty sure this would not be allowed ordinarily.Overall, this was a great book. I've heard it compared several times to Stieg Larsson's books but as I haven't read them yet I can't speak to the validity of that comparison. What I do know is that The Hypnotist is a fast-paced, intense mystery that was a lot of fun to read.
I have to agree with the review that appeared in the International Herald Tribune: Don¿t believe the hype about THE HYPNOTIST, a calculating thriller by two Swedish authors writing as Lars Kepler. This lengthy story of a spree killer who wipes out three members of a family in a murderous rage and the discredited hypnotist who comes out of professional exile to help catch him does contain strokes of good writing (¿Josef had a particular smell about him, a smell of rage, of burning chemicals,¿ in Ann Long¿s blunt translation). And the maniac of the piece is certainly an eye-catching villain. But the dislocations in time, glib psychology and repetitious depiction of guts and gore create more discomfort than tension. For genuinely stylish sadism, stick to Stieg Larsson; for cruelty executed with true cunning, read Jo Nesbo; and if ponderous philosophizing is called for, no one can beat Henning Mankell.
The Hypnotist is a fast and exciting read, with quite a few moments that had me on the edge of my chair and some genuinely surprising twists in the plot. I enjoyed the authors' use of different characters' perspectives, though at times it was hard to remember who knew what about the unfolding mystery. There are a few things that strain credibility--the characters' ability to overcome horrific injuries long enough to do whatever is needed to further the plot, for example! The weaving together of plots is also not as seamless as it could be, with certain plot lines practically disappearing for long stretches of the novel. Still, I enjoyed the book overall and would probably consider reading anything else "Lars Kepler" comes out with.