Book Club Review – The Hypnotist

For April 2021, The Hypnotist was picked as our monthly read. This was my first book from Lars Kepler and it serves as a staring point for the Joona Linna detective series. I am always intrigued by any kind of detective-driven mystery so I happily dove into this 600+ page monster. I wasn’t ready for what was inside.

The Hypnotist starts with the truly gruesome murder of an entire family. Every member of it has been butchered and only one of them barely survived but is in a coma due to the trauma. The is the setting for our two main characters, who must do everything in their power to find a way to speak to the sole survivor in order to prevent more carnage.

Joona Linna is a police officer who know what he is doing. His interactions with people around him are kind but cold, and he throws himself completely into his cases, never giving up and mostly ending up being right, which he takes immense pleasure in letting his detractors know. There was something very satisfying in following Joona as the main investigator of the story. I like it when the lead knows what they are doing, are competent and act with confidence. That is not to say there are no flaws in Joona, who also gives us glimpses of a dark past that isn’t fully fleshed out in this volume but which I have no doubt will mean a great deal in future adventures.

Dr. Erik Maria Bark made a promise a long time ago. He promised he would never hypnotise anyone ever again. But when he is called at Joona’s side to help communicate with the comatose victim, he must make a choice. Will he uphold his oath or will he do what needs to be done to potentially save more lives? Erik was a very fun character to read. A family man, a loving father and a caring husband, Erik too has some darker events locked away in his past that he would not want to revisit. After making his choice, his life will be thrown into chaos.

This story here was compelling throughout the book. I did find some slower passages but the chapters were very short for most of the time and so the flow still kept a steady pace. This is a real crime novel. Full on police investigation, and while I enjoyed myself enough, I still prefer the more classic approach to detective stories. This was a satisfying read as a whole but I am not sure it was compelling enough for me to seek out other books in this particular series.

Score: 6.5/10 – Good

Review – Closed Casket

It was 3am. Thunder was ringing loudly outside and rain was batting away at the window next to my reading chair. With only a small lamp to give me light and my comfy reading throw keeping me warm, it was the absolute perfect environment to be reading the last chapters of an Hercule Poirot novel. As I closed the last page of what would be my thirty-second Poirot, I felt a very familiar feeling creeping it’s way up my spine. Part excitement, part nostalgia, sprinkled with a heavy dose of pure satisfaction. No one but Poirot can give me that very unique cocktail of emotions.

Closed Casket is the second Agatha Christie book written by modern author Sophie Hannah, who has established herself as a Queen of Mystery in her own rights over the past few years. She has written quite a few mystery novels, and she’s also taken on the very prestigious task to revive one of the most beloved and popular fiction character of all time: Hercule Poirot.

The first Poirot book to be published in decades (The Monogram Murders) a few years ago was very well crafted and a great way for Hannah to show the world she was up to the task of not only paying hommage to the best selling novelist of all time, but to build upon it with her on twist added to the mix. She was able to bring back Christie’s prose in a way I didn’t think would ever be possible.

In this second one, Hannah solidifies her grasp on not only the egocentric Belgian detective‘s voice, but also on Christie’s very unique take on the detective sub-genre of fiction. Simply put, she absolutely nails it, once again.

Closed Casket bring Poirot and his partner (and our narrator), Catchpool to Lillieoak. Where famous mystery author for children Lady Athelinda Playford has summoned them for a diner where she plans to announce to her entire family that she has just made some very unique changes to her will. As in most Poirot novels, something tragic happens shortly after, and it is up to our little Belgian detective and Catchpool to figure out exactly what transpired.

The thing I find absolutely fascinating about a Christie mystery, is how she (or in this case, Sophie Hannah) has planned all of the very intricate, minute details of the intrigue before writing anything at all, and then proceeds to feed us tiny little hints at a time. They are always present but also always hidden in plain sight for us to decode, and attempt to solve the mystery before the illustre Hercule Poirot does so in grand fashion at the end of the book. I have very rarely been able to actually guess what happened before Poirot enlightens me and Closed Casket was no exception.

I found exactly what I was looking for in this book. A murder that seems impossible to figure out, a cast of suspects with well fleshed out personalities and a duo of main characters meeting the high expectations I have come to develop when reading Hercule Poirot. I have two more Sophie Hannah Poirot novels to read and I cannot wait to open the next one!

Score: 8/10 – Great

Image by Andrew Averkin

Review – Every Vow You Break

On the verge of getting married to a perfectly nice, caring, rich man, Abigail is enjoying her bachelorette weekend with her friends, when she meets a charming, charismatic man. One life-changing mistake later, she is off on her honeymoon with her new husband to an island that promised nothing but peace, seclusion and relaxation. Abigail is happy and is only starting to forgive herself for the terrible thing she did when the charming man from her bachelorette party shows up on the exact same island. What is he doing there? Is it an unfortunate coincidence? Is he simply on vacation, or is there another, scarier motivation to his sudden reappearance in her life?

This is the basic premise of Every Vow You Break and it was plenty enough for me to get sucked into this bad boy. I love a good pulse pounding thriller and this gave me plenty of sweats and chills throughout it’s fast reading chapters. I don’t want to give much else of the story away, for obvious reasons, but I was pleased that I was not able to guess everything before it happens. This is something that has plagued other mystery books I’ve read in the past, and while I was able to deduce some details of the mystery ahead of time, there were still some twists that took me by surprise.

The end of a mystery novel often makes or breaks a book for me. The story can be very intriguing, but if the author doesn’t stick the landing with aplomb, I am often left hungry for more and this usually brings down the overall experience quite a bit. Luckily, even if the final chapters were not the most mind bending I’ve ever read, there was still enough for me to enjoy myself and lock myself in a state of “I must finish this book now”. I would definitely recommend it to people looking for a easy-to-read, gripping thriller.

Score: 7.5/10 – Great

Book Club Review – Later

When 2021 kick off, some friends and I decided to form a book club (my first one ever) and pick one book per month we would all read and then get on a zoom call to discuss it. This was particularly exciting for me because I am not prone to get out of my literary comfort zone of Fantasy and Mystery, so this gave me a way to experience novels I would normally not pick for myself (except when we’ll get to my month, but that’s for another day) .

Our book pick for February was Later, by Stephen King. I have read a couple of Stephen King novels in years past and while classics like It, and Christine were interesting reads, I never naturally seek out horror novels in general. It’s just not as fun as Fantasy or Mystery to me. But then I realized that this particular book is part of an imprint of hardboiled cime novels called Hard Case Crime. The series recreates the flavour of the paperback crime novels of the 1940s and 1950s. Many authors have been features in this series, and Stephen King’s Later is #147. This was my first read within this particular series and I have to say that I was curious to see if King writing something that was a bit more police-investigation driven rather than his usual horror tropes would grab would appeal to me.

The story of Later resolves around a young boy named Jamie, who from his earliest days, has been able to see dead people. Only for a few days after their deaths mind you, but he can see them and even talk with them. More than that, they have to tell him the truth no matter what he asks them. Jamie lives alone with his mom and nobody other than them knows about his secret. With this simple, yet intriguing premise at its core, the story itself was very intriguing from the get-go. The pace of the story was also very solid, as is often the case when written using first person perspective.

Of course, nothing stays simple forever, and soon enough, Jamie finds himself entangled with police investigations, a serial killer’s ghost, and more people knowing about his unusual ability. The main plot of the story was compelling enough to grab my interest and keep it until the end, though this is where things fell off for me. The first 90% of the book makes you think and guess about where this is all going, or how things will resolve themselves for Jamie, and the end of the book just didn’t deliver on it’s own potential.

Overall, I can’t say that this was a bad read, because I enjoyed myself for the most of the ride, but as I closed the book after reading the ending, I felt unsatisfied. I wanted more to come out of this. It would have been a different feeling had this been part of a series or if some sort of sequel was in the works, but as a stand-alone story, while this started out as a very promising story, the climax fell flat and lacked a satisfying conclusion.

Score: 6/10 – Decent

Image by Buckwolfder