The Mirror Man (Joona Linna #8), by Lars Kepler

Eight stars

Long a fan of Lars Kepler and the Joona Linna series, I was eager to get my hands on this latest publication. In a novel that is as intense as it is dark, the story pulls the reader into levels of depravity never thought imaginable. A young girl is kidnapped in plain sight and taken into custody, where she is locked away with a number of others. Years later, she’s found hanging in a playground, her past a great mystery. Now, a new girl has gone missing and Joona Linna is brought in to investigate. While Loona tries to piece it all together, a number of girls are being held captive by a man who is has elusive as he is cruel. Linna will have to work quickly to save these girls, though nothing is making much sense. Lars Kepler does it again with a novel that sends chills up the spine.

It was a sunny day when Jenny was abducted in plain sight, leaving her family wondering what had happened. As Jenny is taken to a nondescript house, she is locked away with other girls, all of whom are cowering in fear. Those who try escaping are met with severe punishment, at times far worse than they could ever imagine. Their captor is ruthless and will stop at nothing to keep order and fear.

When Jenny’s body is found hanging in a playground five years later, questions emerge as to where she has been and how she make it to the playground. Local CCTV offers some answers, though it is not nearly enough. It’s time for police detective Joona Linna to begin investigating, though his unorthodox style leaves some wondering how effective it can be. Linna finds an obscure parallel to a death that was deemed to be a suicide years before. Now, when a new girl, Mia, goes missing, Linna is sure that there is a serial kidnapper/murderer who has been targeting young girls and hopes to make a mockery of it all.

While Linna and the Swedish police begin trying to piece things together, Mia and her fellow captives are thrust into a world of torture and pain at the hands of a heinous woman. However, their greatest fears is bot her, but a man running the show, with a long history of psychiatric issues and who presents with a highly complex condition. As Linna follows all the leads available to him, he finds a clue that could help, but time is short and the lives of these girls seem readily expendable. Lars Kepler at their best again with another bone chilling tale that is sure to keep the reader flipping pages well into the night.

I have long come to enjoy the work of Lars Kepler, especially with the detailed narrative and strong storyline. There is something ‘unputdownable’ about the books, perhaps related to the depravity the antagonist presents throughout. The story flows well, even though it is translated, and the action continues throughout, keeping the reader on their toes during this dark journey.

Joona Linna is a protagonist like few others, with many of her personal struggles front and centre in the novel. While he is highly unorthodox, using illegal drugs to get through the day, his ability to investigate is like no other. Linna finds ways to get inside the heads of the most heinous killers and gets to the root of the crime. That being said, he cannot shake some of his personal issues, which shape all that he has become, making the stories all the more engrossing.

When I look for a strong police procedural with psychologistal thriller aspects, I need look no further than Lars Kepler. Each of the eight books have kept me hooked and I cannot say enough about them. The narrative is strong and keeps me connected throughout, with mid-length chapters to leave me demanding more. The plot is quite strong and the characters compelement it well. Sick and depraved antagonists round out the story well and keep me wondering just how far things will go until Joona Linna finds a way to solve the case. The fact that the story is translated always baffles me, as the writing flows with such ease. There is no hint of translation and I would swear it was penned in English from the beginning. Hats off the translator and Kepler’s ability to write so seamlessly. I would highly recommend these novels to anyone with time and a penchant for the darker psychologist thriller, alongside a police detective who will stop at nothing to get answers.

Kudos, Lars Kepler, for another sensational book in the series. What will you come up with next?

Lazarus (Joona Linna #7), by Lars Kepler

Nine stars

I find myself excited whenever a new novel by Lars Kepler makes its way to print in English, as I can be assured of a strong story that is not lost when translated. This novel was not a disappointment, as Joona Linna is back to fight another serial killer, but this time there’s a twist. Superintendent Joona Linna continues to hold his coveted position within Sweden’s National Crime Division, though he is rocked when he discovers that his former wife’s head has been discovered in a freezer. The presumed killer is also found dead in Finland, bringing a momentary amount of solace. When the murder of two other criminals have loose connections to Linna, the local police begin asking questions. Linna is baffled and tries to tie it all together, but comes up blank. Meanwhile, the finger of a dead serial killer turns up, leading many to wonder if he might have been alive this whole time. Jurek Walter was a killer known less for his brutal slayings than the psychological damage he did to his victim’s families, as he buried those he captured alive and waited for them to perish. Might Walter be using a proxy to enact some new killings, ‘cleaning up’ some of the criminal detritus that lingers throughout Europe? Saga Bauer, a colleague of Linna’s, remembers fatally shooting Jurek Walter, or so she thought, leaving her as spooked as the others. While Linna and Bauer try to piece together who’s been killing these criminals, it becomes apparent that neither are entirely safe. Linna flees Sweden to find his adult daughter and take her into hiding again, while Bauer leads the hunt to find Walter. When Bauer’s father and kid sister go missing, she knows that she’s in the middle of a cat and mouse game that could end horribly. Fuelled by the love she has for her family, Bauer will stop at nothing to find the man that she thought she’d killed, knowing he thrives on toying with her. Once Linna makes the effort to come out of hiding, he’s ready to hunt Jurek Walter down once and for all, even if it costs him his life. Working in the wooded areas around the country, Bauer and Linna must set a trap before they become the hunted. A brilliant and dark piece by Lars Kepler that only substantiates that this is a much more complex novel than it appears to be on the surface. Recommended to those who love Scandinavian crime thrillers, as well as the reader who is familiar with Kepler’s way of writing and pulling the storyline out for all to savour.

I was introduced to Kepler a number of years ago and found myself enthralled from the get-go. In fact, Kepler is one of many Scandinavian authors whose crime thrillers I thoroughly enjoy. Joona Linna is a wonderful protagonist, as he rarely sees light and glee in his life, forced to cobble together something worthwhile so as not to fall into an emotional abyss. His reunification with a daughter who barely remembered him is nice, though he thrusts her right back into the middle of the drama and must protect her without knowing which way to turn. Others find their way into the story with ease, particularly Saga Bauer, fighting their own demons and trying to push the story forward. Kepler has a wonderful way of painting the characters in so many different lights that there is something for everyone in this piece. The story was strong, though slow to get moving. The subplots work and, by the end, some of the dangling threads seem to find resolution, if not new cliffhangers. As I have said before, the fact that this book is translated from the original Swedish is not apparent at first glance, as the story and narrative are quite smooth. I am eager to see what else Joona Linna might have fall into his lap as he faces new and dastardly criminals in the upcoming novels.

Kudos, Lars Kepler, for your wonderful collaborative effort. I have loved every one of your books and this was no exception. While you may be an acquired taste, I encourage everyone to give your writing a try!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

The Rabbit Hunter (Joona Linna #6), by Lars Kepler

Eight starsIn this sixth instalment of the Joona Linna series, Lars Kepler reminds readers what true Scandinavian psychological thrillers are meant to entail. When Sweden’s Foreign Minister is murdered by someone lurking in the shadows of his own home, the only witness to the event mumbles something that confuses authorities. Joona Linna, Sweden’s most prolific hunter of serial killers is not available to assist, having been sentenced to prison. However, no one is taking any chances and Linna is given a brief pass to aid in the investigation. When all presume the attack was terror-based, Linna promises to deliver a message from a suspected terrorist leader, in hopes that this will bring the case to a close. However, things go drastically wrong and Linna is back behind bars with no new answers. More murders occur, with this mysterious individual taunting victims by reciting an old children’s rhyme about rabbits. Swedish authorities remain baffled and cannot piece things together, knowing full well that their only hope is Joona Linna. The murders turn international and all eyes are on Sweden, forcing Linna’s release from prison in a negotiated settlement, which allows him to work on a plan he’s concocted. Could this ‘Rabbit Killer’ have a larger and more concrete plan when it comes to choosing victims? This spree of deaths seems to trace back decades, though once Linna pulls a thread, even he cannot know what will unravel. Kepler stuns readers again with a powerful psychological thriller that is not diluted in its translation. Recommended to series fans, who have had to wait a few years for this stunner, as well as those who like a little dark with their thriller reads.I remember wondering about Lars Kepler a handful of years ago, having seen the books on shelves but never taking the leap. Once I accepted that I could try something that had not been penned originally in English, I was hooked by these books, which flirt with the mind as they pull the reader deeper into the story. Joona Linna has had much development within these novels, though he is also a very dark person and hard to admire. The fact that Kepler painted Linna into a corner and sent him off to jail did little to lessen the story’s impact, as he is able to spin his mind while incarcerated and ends up blowing the case wide open. Other characters prove to complement Linna well, giving that essential ‘tug of war’ sentiment that keeps the police procedural aspect of the story strong. Some of these ‘one time’ characters are also highly entertaining, providing the reader with some subplots that drive the story home, though nothing too earth shattering. Turning to the story itself, it was strong and flowed well, though I am having a hard time feeling as eerily connected as I had been to past Kepler novels. Perhaps I am inundating myself with psychological thrillers or Scandinavian dark novels, but I almost felt as if I wanted more scintillating aspects to leave me gasping. That being said, the book read so easily and the narrative was well-paced throughout. There was a seamless translation into English and, as I have said with all books in this series and many other Scandinavian dark pieces, it is as though the move to English fits the story like a glove. I could not ask for anything more and am so pleased to feel a connection throughout. Those looking for a series that will keep them up well into the night (both for the writing style and subject matter) need look no further.Kudos, Lars Kepler, for another wonderful novel. I can see Joona Linna is in fine hands with you at the helm. And now I wait to see what else you have coming down the pipeline. A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: