I was looking forward to reading The Hypnotist, there was a lot of buzz around this book and I am always on the look out for a good detective story with a strong and engaging master sleuth. Since The Hypnotist was a best-seller and Lars Kepler was touted as the next Stieg Larsson, I eagerly took it off my “Kobo shelf” and started in.
Unfortunately, I found this novel to be a big disappointment.
The story itself has far too many plot lines that tenuously hinge together through the past and present actions of the main character, the well-known but disgraced clinical hypnotist, Erik Maria Bark. The scenes in the story are dark and violent examples of mental illness and abuse in the extreme, but without any solid follow through the many storylines are just instances of gratuitous brutality serving to shock the readers. The plot jumps from murder to murder in a wild, chaotic frenzy with a very tenuous thread to link them to the story and none of them have a satisfying conclusion. A long (over 100 pages!), 10 year old flashback, haphazardly inserted in the middle, bogs down the narrative, and while providing a little background for the main storyline, leaves the reader with a lot of questions that are never addressed in the book.
The characters are flat, wooden and unlikeable for the most part. They are all psychologically damaged, some more than others, but their stories are not explored or explained. I had little investment in any of them as there was no character development and therefore no way to engage with or understand them. The main character, Erik Maria Bark, the hypnotist, stumbles along in life, popping pills to cope with the increasing tension in his marriage and even when faced with the possibility of losing his son, is incapable of showing any strength of character one would expect in his situation. Erik’s wife, Simone, is a wretched, whiny, self-absorbed woman who, devastated by her son’s kidnapping, fails to use any intelligence in reconstructing the events of the crime and fails to communicate the most crucial information to the police or to her husband. The police detective, Joona Linna, has a minimal role in the novel and lacks the charisma, quick wit and razor-sharp sleuthing skills that I have come to expect in any mystery or action book I read. I did not find the lesser characters anymore compelling, while their stories may have been interesting, the author(s) chose to leave the details and nuances of their lives to the imagination, thus they remained cardboard-like players in this tale.
Overall, I did not enjoy this book. I was frustrated, annoyed and a little bored throughout the story. I did not feel that the plot was compelling and I had no empathy for the characters. I would not recommend this novel.