Source: Review copy
Publication: 30th May 2023 from Zaffre Books
My thanks to Zaffre for an advance copy for review
Three years ago, Detective Saga Bauer received an ominous postcard describing a gun and nine white bullets – one of which was intended for her partner, Detective Joona Linna. The sender alleged that Saga was the only person who could save him. But as time passed, the threat faded.
A sack with a decomposing body has been found hanging from a tree in the forest. A milky white bullet casing turns up at the scene. When the body count begins to rise, the police realise that the killer is sending riddles, offering them the chance to stop the murders before they happen.
But the police always seem to arrive a moment too late. As they begin to close in, the case becomes more and more tangled. Someone is spinning a fiendishly intricate web, pulling Joona ever closer to a trap he may not be able to escape.
This is the 9th book in the always dark Joona Linna series and I recommend that you read the others in the series as it does have some recurring characters other than the police duo. Lars Kepler (actually a husband and wife duo) specialises in complex mysteries, innovative and deeply creepy murders and pretty disturbing serial killers.
In The Spider, Detective Superintendent Joona Linna of Sweden’s National Crime Unit is working with his colleague, Saga Bauer. Saga plays a leading role in this book and we see that, just as a spider weaves a gossamer thin web to trap his flies, so this Spider is setting out to entrap our intrepid duo.
An old threat, almost forgotten, suddenly comes to the fore. A series of figurines arrive suggesting a string of victims and it is not long before a violent and macabre murder is committed and the body displayed in graphic style. Through a series of complex riddles, our perpetrator appears to give the police the opportunity to stop this series of murders. It does not take long to discover that an enemy we thought had long gone has reappeared and is bent on vengeance.
Joona Linna and Saga Bauer are caught in a deadly battle to stop this murderer, but in this web of deceit, has the spider already woven his silver threads around this pair? Just like the predatory spider, this murderer is leaving a trail designed to ensure that Joona and Saga will walk straight into his trap and his lure is the series of gruesome and lurid murders that lead straight to this sticky web.
The inventiveness of the serial killer, the complexity of the riddles and the pace of the story deliver plenty of action and excitement as a deadly psychological game plays out. This killer is both cruel and cunning; he knows exactly how to draw Saga and Joona into his lair.
This is a very well-conceived race against time, with the threat to each victim seemingly offering another step forward on the path to finding the killer. Kepler uses innovative killing methods married with an insight into the mind of this loathsome protagonist – a killer who plays on the fears of each of the victims, leading to a scary and nightmare inducing read. Each of these murders resonates hard with Joona and Saga and every time they fail to stop the next murder, they lose a little of their confidence in their ability to catch this most heinous of killers.
The speed of the violence strikes hard, and the series of puzzles lead the reader down a path that ends in yet more dramatic and very graphic displays of death. This is evil personified and he’s not going to stop until he has our duo in his pincers. This trail is chilling, surprising, and leads down a path of no return.
Verdict: The pace is incredibly strong and the puzzles complex. The plot relies on the fast pace and the graphic, almost cinematic, style of the murders to carry the momentum forward and keep the reader on the hook. It is the increasing despair of Saga and Joona Linna though that makes this book as taut as a zip wire as our duo become increasingly frantic in their search to stop this monster. Not for the faint-hearted.
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Lars Kepler is the pseudonym of critically acclaimed husband and wife team Alexandra Coelho Ahndoril (b. 1966) and Alexander Ahndoril (b. 1967), authors of the No. 1 internationally bestselling Joona Linna series. With nine instalments to date, the series has sold 17 million copies in 40 languages. The Ahndorils were both established writers before they adopted the pen name Lars Kepler, and have each published several acclaimed novels.