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Stalker

Review

Stalker

written by Lars Kepler, translated by Neil Smith

I have been waiting impatiently for STALKER for several months. More often than not, such expectation results in disappointment. That was not the case here. Lars Kepler, the pseudonym for the seamless collaboration of spouses Alexandra and Alexander Ahndoril, brings --- with a sparkling translation by Neil Smith --- the same elements to this novel that they have to their previous four featuring Stockholm Detective Inspector Joona Linna: short chapters, nightmarish murders and a tantalizing, suspenseful mystery. The most significant factor, though, is Linna himself, a damaged, haunted but brilliant protagonist who demonstrates here that he will do whatever he must to get to the truth and see that justice is done.

STALKER begins with a murder and a video. The latter is of the victim, taken without her knowledge prior to her death, which is then sent to the police to puzzle over before they understand what they have. When it happens again, they find themselves in a frenzy of helplessness since they don’t know who the intended victim is. Erik Maria Bark, the hypnotist from the first Joona Linna novel (titled, by amazing coincidence, THE HYPNOTIST), is brought in to try to elicit evidence from the husband of the first victim, but inexplicably keeps it to himself. Bark’s motives are gradually revealed.

"These books are the best legal drug you could possibly ask for. And what’s terrific is that you can use it over and over until the next installment is published in the United States, which hopefully will be as soon as possible."

In the interval, though, Linna resurfaces after being presumed dead. It is evident that there is something off about Linna, who has no home, pension, funds, job or anything noteworthy other than a hobbling injury, which is his legacy as a result of his absence. The boy isn’t right, but he is making the best of things and gets himself unofficially immersed in the investigation of the voyeuristic stalker at the request of Detective Margot Silverman.

Years ago, Bark was responsible for the imprisonment of a drug-addicted priest accused of committing a murder very similar to the ones occurring in the present. The priest --- brain-injured and with secondary memory impairments --- is still institutionalized. The question becomes whether he has an accomplice or is somehow leaving the institution. It is also possible, of course, that the wrong man has been incarcerated for all of the intervening years. The clues slowly lead the police to an unexpected suspect. But Loona isn’t convinced and, with a very unreliable ally, races against time to arrive at the truth, breaking laws with abandon to save a friend and a pair of innocents from an act generated by a pathological revenge that has percolated for well over a decade.

One of Kepler’s trademarks is the upfront, in-your-face descriptive paragraphs that pepper the narrative from beginning to end. I’m not just talking about the violent vignettes, which in a few (but not all) instances will melt your face off. I also am describing the collateral damage, where tables fly, glass shatters, people slip, and all manner and sorts of mayhem ensue. One reads and looks up in amazement to find their own environs relatively unscathed. Oh, and in the middle of STALKER, there is the mystery concerning the identity of the serial killer. For me, the revelation was the same as if someone had dropped a bunch of lit matches on my lap.

I’m not sure how the delineation of duty is drawn between the Ahndorils collectively, but it’s obvious that what one doesn’t think of, the other does. These books are the best legal drug you could possibly ask for. And what’s terrific is that you can use it over and over until the next installment is published in the United States, which hopefully will be as soon as possible.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on February 8, 2019

Stalker
written by Lars Kepler, translated by Neil Smith

  • Publication Date: February 5, 2019
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf
  • ISBN-10: 1524732265
  • ISBN-13: 9781524732264