Book Review: THE NIGHTMARE by Lars Kepler

Because I was light on posts last week, it probably looked like I was slacking off, but I was actually experiencing pop culture overload. I did a marathon of the entire first season of Homeland (SO good), saw Savages the movie (review later this week), and was glued to the tube for the Olympic trials (what was going on with Nastia Liukin??).

I also finished a couple of books and reviews, including this one for Lars Kepler’s The Nightmare (translated by Laura A. Wideburg, out July 3), the follow-up to The Hypnotist, one of my top five 2011 reads.

This novel opens with a woman found dead on an abandoned boat. Cause of death is drowning but her clothes are dry. Meanwhile, the body of a government official is discovered hanging in his home. Even Detective Joona Linna thinks the latter case is suicide…or is it? What drove the man to do it, and how might his death be related to the young woman’s on the boat? As Linna delves deeper, he crosses paths with a professional killer and a sadistic businessman involved in a scheme that would have horrific consequences on an international scale.

Whereas Hypnotist is a tense psychological thriller, this is more political commentary, something I don’t enjoy in my entertainment. There are psychological elements, but the characters remain elusive. The story sometimes wanders off on odd tangents—such as one involving a talk-show host playing a strange game—that don’t help propel it forward. The plot also relies on the coincidence of several people knowing classical music well, including a government official who provides an important key to a puzzle because he happens to be a musical prodigy.

When I mentioned the political angle to a friend, she said she had a Swedish neighbor who read this book in its original language and liked it better than The Hypnotist. The reason was that Nightmare dares to use names of real-life politicians in Sweden, and pulls no punches in its criticism. Perhaps, then, my inability to enjoy it as much is just a cultural thing, but I think something was lost in translation.

Nerd verdict: No goosebumps in Nightmare

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  • Reply
    jenn aka the picky girl
    July 2, 2012 at 6:50 am

    It’s so interesting you mention the political-ness of the book. That interview you sent me of Ian Rankin discusses how the Nordic thrillers are very political, and he says that he thinks part of the reason why is that these countries were relatively peaceful for a long time, and when the guard changed, that peace has slowly declined. So these crime novels are an exploration of why this has happened.

    I really enjoyed that perspective because, I’ll be honest, I’m not all that familiar with that part of the world but have definitely noticed. Thanks for the review. I think I downloaded The Hypnotist on audio based on your rec, but I still haven’t listened. I need to get on that.

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      July 2, 2012 at 9:28 pm

      I don’t mind a little political and/or social commentary, but don’t like the focus in my fiction to be politics. I read the newspaper (yes, I’m old; I subscribe to the physical paper) for that stuff and don’t want the cross-pollination. But some people like it and that’s why I mentioned it.

      I still highly recommend HYPNOTIST. That book is so creepy and not political at all. It’s much more about the characters’ psychological makeup.

      • Reply
        July 4, 2012 at 6:55 pm

        I also recommend Hypnotist. And I haven’t yet read Nightmare, though it’s on my library list and should be in soon. I, like Elyse, am no fan of politics in my book, but will try and reserve judgment though we tend to like (and not like) many of the same things. Interesting take on it, Jenn, and I noticed that the latest James Thompson was also very political (too much for my liking). I’m going to be interested to see where on the spectrum this one hits me. Thanks for the review, E.

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