When the lead detective in a crime novel is introduced as an expert on “serial killers, spree killers, and stalkers,” you know you’re in for a rough ride. And when you read the descriptions of the killings in the early chapters of “Stalker,” you’ll feel like you’re plunging down the first steep descent on a roller coaster — you’ll want to scream with abject terror. The beginning of the new book from husband-and- wife team Alexandra Coelho Ahndoril and Alexander Ahndoril, writing as Lars Kepler, was as gripping as it was disturbing.
Police in the Swedish National Criminal Investigation Department receive a link to a short YouTube video showing a woman in her bedroom, putting on a pair of black tights, filmed secretly from the outside. Soon after, the woman is found murdered, her face mutilated by multiple stab wounds in a horrific attack. When a second video is received, Detective Margot Silverman knows a serial killer is on the loose.
The accounts of the killings are very explicit, written in vivid, sickening detail, and the first chapters felt excessively graphic. Once the hunt for the killer begins in earnest, I was happy to leave the horror of the early murders behind.
Silverman enlists a hypnotist and psychiatrist, Erik Maria Bark, to help unlock the mystery, and Detective Joona Linna (from previous Lars Kepler novels) returns to play a starring role. Bark tries to discover clues to the killer’s identity by hypnotizing a brain-damaged ex-priest who had been imprisoned for a crime similar in nature to the newest stalker-video-murders. Bark scours the broken memories of the ex-priest, wondering if he had an accomplice or if he didn’t in fact commit the earlier crime and the killer has been on the loose the entire time.
As “Stalker” unfolds, you’ll encounter false leads, angry thugs, a drug den, closely kept secrets, jealous co-workers and improbable escapes. It’s a wild ride as the killer hunts for victims and the police pursue the stalker.
The fast-paced chapters and devious plot twists left me hypnotized and eager to find the stalker’s identity. Now, I might just want to be hypnotized to have the images of the murders purged from my memory. (AP)