When a book arrives with as much buzz as Lars Kepler’s The Hypnotist, I often approach it with my eyes all squinty and suspicious, thinking, “What makes you so special?” More often than not, that question goes unanswered when I find the book doesn’t live up to its hype.
But I had no such problem with Hypnotist. Against my feeble protestations that I had other things to do and deadlines to meet, the book kept my butt in the chair until it was done with me. Talk about hypnotized.
One of the strongest aspects of the story, about a hypnotist who uses the controversial method to help solve the massacre of a family, is the authors’ (Lars Kepler is a pseudonym for husband and wife Alexander and Alexandra Ahndoril) ability to build suspense. I often found myself reading through my fingers as if I were watching a scary movie in which the protagonist had just opened a door and started going down rickety stairs into a dark basement.
Oh wait, there is a scene when people do that in the book. Witness the following, in which a retired detective and his daughter are in the cellar of the house where the slaughter occurred. It’s a crime scene and they’re not supposed to be there but they figure they can search for clues since the house is empty. Or is it?
A tapping noise comes from the ceiling, and Simone looks over at the stairs and then at her father. He doesn’t seem to hear the sound. He walks slowly toward a door at the far end of the room. Simone bumps into a rocking horse. Kennet opens the door and glances into a utility room containing a battered washing machine and dryer and an old-fashioned wringer. Next to a geothermal pump, a grubby curtain hangs in front of a large cupboard.
“Nobody here,” he says, turning to Simone.
She looks at him, seeing the grubby curtain behind him at the same time. It is completely motionless yet at the same time alive.
There is a damp mark on the fabric, a small oval, as if made by a mouth…
It seems to Simone that the damp oval suddenly caves inward. “Dad,” she whispers.
Ahhhhh! Is your skin crawling yet? No? OK, then check out this scene, when Simone is awakened in the middle of the night by a noise in the apartment she shares with her husband, Erik, and son, Benjamin. She goes to investigate it—in the dark, of course.
Simone just has time to think that she must have exaggerated the noise in her sleep when the knocking suddenly begins again. Someone is in the apartment! Erik has taken a pill and is out cold. His snoring quiets as she lays a hand on his arm, but he doesn’t wake up, only turns over, puffing. As quietly as possible, she creeps out of bed and slips through the bedroom door, which is ajar.
A light comes from the kitchen. As she moves through the hallway she sees a glow hanging in the air like a blue cloud of gas. It’s the fridge light. The fridge and the freezer are standing wide open. The freezer has begun to defrost and water is running onto the floor. Drops of water from the thawing packs of food are landing on the plastic edging with a gentle tapping noise.
Simone becomes aware of how cold it is in the kitchen. There is a smell of cigarette smoke. She looks out into the hallway.
Then she sees that the front door is wide open.
She rushes to Benjamin’s room. Fast asleep. For a little while she just stands there, listening to his regular breathing. As she walks toward the front door to close it, her heart almost stops. There is someone standing in the doorway.
What are you waiting for?? If you like fast-paced suspense thrillers, grab this book and get on the couch, but first make sure your freezer and front doors are locked down tight.