The once-invisible, pseudonymous couple who together comprise ‘Lars Kepler’ are no longer a mystery. After the immense success of their first book, The Hypnotist, the hidden identity of the duo led to massive press speculation and even night-time stakeouts to uncover ‘Kepler’s’ identity. Lars Kepler is a bifurcated writer, a husband and wife team, both literary authors – Alexandra and Alexander Ahndoril. In fact, the duo are not natural tabloid fodder; while Alexandra is humorous and lively, Alexander is quiet and serious, as might befit this biographer of Ingmar Bergman.
The team’s subsequent novels, The Fire Witness and The Sandman,enjoyed much attention. The latter weighed in at 500 pages and had DI Joona Linn (who reappears in the new book, Lazarus) on the trail of an overfamiliar figure in crime fiction, the highly intelligent, nigh-invisible serial killer, with one target left in his sights. There was no evidence here of Alexander Ahndoril’s interest in Bergman’s nuanced and subtle approach to character: the imperative was overriding narrative impetus, and that the duo delivered in spades. That’s very much the case once again with Lazarus, another arm-straining saga (getting on close to 500 pages) that keeps the reader transfixed. Joona Linn becomes involved in a case involving a deeply personal nightmare. Sweden’s most infamous serial killer, Jurek Walter, died years before, but someone is cutting a new and bloody swathe through the country with traces of the dead murderer in evidence. When Joona’s partner is kidnapped and locked into a subterranean coffin, the detective is faced with the worst crisis of his life.
Those who have read the Kepler duo before will know what to expect. Admittedly the serial-killer scenario is not new, but this is deeply visceral stuff, largely keeps cliché at bay and is handled with a casual assurance that makes it unputdownable.
Reviewed by Barry Forshaw
Written by Lars Kepler
Translated from the Swedish by Neil Smith
Published by HarperCollins (2020)
Barry Forshaw’s books include Crime Fiction: A Reader’s Guide, the Keating Award-winning Brit Noir and Nordic Noir. Other work: Death in a Cold Climate, Sex and Film and the British Crime Writing encyclopedia (also a Keating Award winner). He edits Crime Time.
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