A vibrant new translation of the first installment in the #1 internationally bestselling Joona Linna series, The Hypnotist shows the lengths one determined detective is willing to go to solve a horrific crime.
A gruesome triple homicide attracts the interest of Detective Inspector Joona Linna, who demands to investigate the murders. There's only one surviving witnessthe boy whose family was killed before his eyes. The boy was supposed to to be the fourth victim, but somehow he survived. He's suffered more than one hundred knife wounds and lapsed into a catatonic state. Desperate for information, Linna enlists Dr. Erik Maria Bark to hypnotize the boy, hoping to uncover the killer through his memories.
Bark has sworn he would never do this kind of work again because of the long-term effects it can have on a patient's psyche. But Linna won't relent, and the doctor breaks his promise. When he hypnotizes the victim, a long and terrifying chain of events comes to light. This sensational thriller will have you mesmerized from its very first page.
About the Author
LARS KEPLER is the pseudonym of the critically acclaimed husband and wife team Alexandra Coelho Ahndoril and Alexander Ahndoril. Their internationally best-selling Joona Linna series has sold more than ten million copies in forty languages. The Ahndorils were both established writers before they adopted the pen name Lars Kepler, and have each published several acclaimed novels. They live in Stockholm, Sweden. Translated by Neil Smith (acclaimed translator of Jo Nesbo).
Read an Excerpt
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.