Joona Linna, #1
Sarah Crichton Books
January 1st, 2009
In the frigid clime of Tumba, Sweden, a gruesome triple homicide attracts the interest of Detective Inspector Joona Linna, who demands to investigate the murders. The killer is still at large, and there’s only one surviving witness—the boy whose family was killed before his eyes. Whoever committed the crimes wanted this boy to die: he’s suffered more than one hundred knife wounds and lapsed into a state of shock. Desperate for information, Linna sees only one option: hypnotism. He enlists Dr. Erik Maria Bark to mesmerize the boy, hoping to discover the killer through his eyes.
It’s the sort of work that Bark has sworn he would never do again—ethically dubious and psychically scarring. When he breaks his promise and hypnotizes the victim, a long and terrifying chain of events begins to unfurl.
The overriding themes in this novel are that people are horrible, and Sweden has the most inept system of justice in the world. This story is very, very dark. It’s also quite twisty, and while I saw the end coming it was only because the author led me there fairly deftly.
My primary complaint about this story is that the murder mystery that introduces us to the main protagonists is lacking much in terms of depth, and seems to only exist in order to allow for a deus ex machine moment in the later plot. It’s also filled with dark, horrible things and there’s absolutely no conflict over the morality of those involved. There’s also one of those Hollywood superhuman villain aspects here (you know, were the villain gets so badly damaged he should be dead, and yet he keeps popping up and running around and not even bleeding).
The deeper mystery centers around Erik and a scandal he was involved in a decade ago. But I have to be honest- the only reason I gave two farts about Erik and his wife Simone was because their son Benjamin is the sole likable character in the book. I guess in Sweden, in addition to having a large number of psychopaths and sociopaths and serial killers and cops and hospital admin who can’t be bothered to do their jobs….there’s a high rate of infidelity? I doubt Sweden is as horrible as Lars Kepler makes it out to be, but I kept thinking “I am never vacationing there” as I read.
Once you get past the sheer, brutal darkness of the story, it does draw you in. I had a difficult time putting it down after the first half or so (especially when I was into the final third of the story). If you enjoy dark thrillers and murder mysteries that do have a wrapped-up ending, despite somewhat insufferable characters, you’ll likely enjoy this.