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Stalker Lars Kepler, Stalker

Albert Bonniers förlag,  2014.

Reviewed by James Walker in SBR 2015:1

Review Section: Fiction

Stalker is the fifth in a series of novels by Lars Kepler, the pseudonym used by the couple Alexander and Alexandra Ahndoril. They have attempted to write together in various genres, including children’s books and drama, before turning the many hours they had spent watching thrillers and the ideas gained from them into a productive crime- fiction writing partnership.

Stalker begins with a film clip that is being viewed by the police in real time: a woman is being filmed through the windows of her house. She is completely oblivious of this, so the police see her doing everyday things, with no clues as to where she is. The horror of knowing that any attempt to save her is impossible makes the frustration they experience palpable. When the first victim is finally discovered, she has been stabbed to death in a frenzied and vicious attack, leaving her almost unrecognisable.

A second victim is filmed and also seen by the police in real time. They realise that they are dealing with a sadistic serial killer.

The case is initially conducted by a very pregnant Margot Silverman who, as the killing spree continues, becomes increasingly determined to stay the course. At one point, the husband of a victim is so traumatised by finding his wife’s mutilated body that he behaves as if nothing has happened and so spoils part of the crime investigation. He can’t remember anything and the police decide to call in a hypnotist to unlock his memory so he can describe the crime scene as he found it. Erik Maria Bark is the expert forensic psychiatrist and talented hypnotist who appeared in the first Lars Kepler novel Hypnotisören (The Hypnotist).

Things get even more complicated and confusing when it becomes clear that the murderer’s hallmark killing style is identical to that of a previous slaying by a murderer who is currently under lock and key. To make matters harder still, it would appear that Erik Maria Bark was also involved in securing that conviction – through hypnosis on that occasion too!

The plot unfolds in a fascinating, cleverly interwoven series of narratives and builds up to a dramatic climax. Along the way we encounter a colourful cast of characters that surprisingly includes DI Joona Linna, who also appeared in the first four books. Surprisingly, as he is supposed to be dead!

Stalker is an absolutely riveting read. According to ‘Lars Kepler’, what makes a crime novel work is empathy, that is, the empathy the reader feels not only for the victims and the police but also for other characters. If emotional engagement makes a good crime novel, this is a great example. Some advice to any reader of Stalker: unlike this reviewer, do not choose to read it alone, in a house with many large, curtainless windows, standing on its own in a large, secluded garden in the Scottish Borders.

Also by Lars Kepler

  • Hypnotisören (The Hypnotist). Reviewed by Anna Paterson in SBR 2010:2.
  • Paganinikontraktet (The Paganini Contract). Reviewed by Anna Paterson in SBR 2010:2.

Other reviews by James Walker

Other reviews in SBR 2015:1

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