Source: Review copy
Publication: 5 February 2019 from Alfred Knopf
The internationally bestselling authors of The Sandman and The Hypnotist return with a terrifying new thriller: Detective Joona Linna–recently returned from compassionate leave–reunites with hypnotist Erik Maria Bark in a search for a seemingly unassailable sadistic killer.
The Swedish National Crime Unit receives a video of a young woman in her home, clearly unaware that she’s being watched. Soon after the tape is received, the woman’s body is found horrifically mutilated. With the arrival of the next, similar video, the police understand that the killer is toying with them, warning of a new victim, knowing there’s nothing they can do. Detective Margot Silverman is put in charge of the investigation, and soon asks Detective Joona Linna for help. Linna, in turn, recruits Erik Maria Bark, the hypnotist and expert in trauma, with whom Linna’s worked before. Bark is leery of forcing people to give up their secrets. But this time, Bark is the one hiding things.
Years before, he had put a man away for an eerily similar crime, and now he’s beginning to think that an innocent man may be behind bars–and a serial killer still on the loose. . .
Someone is stalking people as they go about their lives in their own homes. This scandi-noir crime novel is a dark and chilling thriller that really ramps up the tension and is not a book to read on a dark night when you are alone and the wind is whistling outside.
Stalker is the 5th book in the Joona Linna series, and though it works fine as a stand-alone novel, I think the reader will get a lot more from it if they have read the others in the series. This will help the reader to understand Joona Linna’s background. Because this is not a straightforward police procedural/psychological thriller; it is altogether deeper and more fascinating than that.
A heavily pregnant DS Margot Silverman is leading the National Criminal Investigation Division hunt for a serial killer; one who films his victims and uploads the films to YouTube. In this hunt she is joined by former Police Detective Joona Linna and Psychologist Erik Maria Bark.
This gives us an ex-policeman and a rogue psychologist specialising in war trauma, both with expert knowledge of this type of killer, but, for their own reasons, working both inside and outside the scope of the formal police investigation to reveal the identity of a serial killer, locate and capture them.
Structuring the novel in this way allows the protagonists some licence in the types of investigative procedures used, and it’s fair to say some of their procedures are less than orthodox.
For Joona, it is an especially difficult time. He has just come out of hiding and has recently allowed his daughter to go and study abroad. This has left him completely rootless, with no money and no home. But once he hears the details of this case, he is compelled to stay and look into it – and he becomes convinced that only he can find and catch the perpetrator.
For Eric Bark, the case is more than an obsession. A link to a previous case he was involved him has made him re-think whether he should have told the police all he knew about a killer who is now safely locked up in a psychiatric hospital. As he begins a new relationship, his conscience troubles him and he must find out once and for all whether he has helped to convict the right man.
I found Stalker a deeply creepy, very chilling and quite harrowing book, which kept me awake until the small hours of the morning. There’s nothing so creepy as the idea of a murderous stalker on your property.
I love the way that Kepler makes the characters stand out. Though we don’t see much of Sara Bauer in this book, her loyalty and affection for Linna are never in doubt. I’d have liked more of the D.S. Silverman character too. She was somewhat overshadowed by Linna, yet her doggedness and determination clearly make her a cop to be reckoned with and I can see a bright future for her as part of this team.
These are murders that strike very close to home indeed and the team will have real trouble dealing with the aftermath of this killer’s vicious spree.
Verdict: Dark, visceral, utterly compelling, this is a cracker of a novel.
LARS KEPLER is the pseudonym of the critically acclaimed husband and wife team Alexandra Coelho Ahndoril and Alexander Ahndoril. Their number one internationally bestselling Joona Linna series has sold more than twelve 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.