Stalker (Joona Linna #5), by Lars Kepler

Eight stars

In this much anticipated fifth novel in the Joona Linna series, Kepler delivers more thrill and drama to appease fans. With Linna presumed dead after an apparent suicidal drowning, control of the National Criminal Investigation Division falls to DS Margot Silverman. When the Division receives a clip from YouTube that outlines a voyeur film of an unidentified woman, the authorities are curious, but have seen no crime. It is only when the woman is found murdered that things begin to take on a shape of their own. Clues are plentiful, though turn up no leads, leaving the Silverman to direct her team to scour the crime scenes. When another clip appears, the race is on to identify the woman before the murder, but again their hands are tied and Silverman’s patience is coming to an end. After the man who sought to kill Linna and his family turns up dead and his identity is confirmed, Linna’s true whereabouts, in rural Sweden becomes known, where his is alive and living off the grid. However, he is no longer part of the inner circle created by law enforcement, but has been coaxed back to offer some of his own insight on this baffling crime. Meanwhile, Erik Maria Bark is working as a psychiatrist, seeking to pull memories from the victims’ family members, to determine if there might be a connection between this stalking crimes. He holds a secret as well as a revelation; he’s helped to put away a man for murder who positioned his victim in a manner similar to those turning up now. Bark did not alert the authorities to a key piece of evidence that came out under hypnosis, but is now harbouring a moral dilemma. Could these recent killings be part of the larger narrative, or is a copycat on the loose? Bark revisits his former patient to make amends and to see if he can help discover new clues to this larger mystery. With more clips making their way to the Division, the women begin to be recognised, friends and family of those on the case, leaving the race to find the killer at the highest priority. Only the jagged memories of a former drug addict and the description of a ‘Dirty Preacher’ fuels the investigation, and there is little time to lose. That has never stopped Joona Linna from taking matters into his own hands, which he does without a second thought, no matter the consequences. Kepler’s hiatus can easily be forgiven after this masterful piece of work, which fans will devour.

Kepler remains at the top of the Scandinavian crime fiction list the world over, and for good reason. The stories are complex, with characters that pull the reader in and a plot that progresses nicely through the short chapters. The mystery is never one of clear A to B, but meanders as it develops, offering backstories that will, eventually, become highly important to the larger narrative. The patient and attentive reader will find themselves pulled in, even with Linna as a less than central character, and rushing to discover the killer and motive. Such a masterful tale is not lost in translation, but far surpasses some of the crime fiction originally penned in English. It is only disappointing that these readers must wait patiently for rights to be granted and translation accomplished before enjoying another novel, with a cliffhanger ending that begs for resolution.

Kudos, Lars Kepler for this great novel. You do not disappoint in the least, even with the delay in the novel’s release.