Lars Kepler is two people -- for some reason this seems to be not uncommon in crime writing (cf. Sjowall and Wahloo, or Nikki French). I always wonder how they do it -- I think S&W used to write alternate chapters. The Keplers, if one can call them this, are an amazingly photogenic couple of Swedish academics who started crime writing a couple of years ago with The Hypnotist, which I reviewed rather enthusiastically in 2011. That book has now been made into a Swedish film and no doubt will soon be remade as an American one.
And now we have the second novel in the series -- I think it can be called that, as the rather quirky Finnish detective Joona Linna reappears here and apparently will be doing so in future novels. This one is rather more ambitious in that it has a political theme -- arms dealing, in fact -- which, though it isn't clear at first, is associated with the mystifying crimes that Linna has to solve. A young girl is found dead on a yacht, apparently drowned except that her clothes are dry. A man appears to have committed suicide by hanging himself, but there is no way he could have reached the high ceiling to attach the rope. And the sister of the murdered girl, together with her boyfriend, are being pursued around lonely, uninhabited islands by a faceless and completely ruthless assassin, though they have no idea why he is trying to kill them.
Unlike The Hypnotist, which grabs you instantly, this novel starts rather slowly and, to me, rather confusingly. I guess that's partly the point, though, as a great many apparently disparate events slowly converge until finally it becomes clear who is behind all this and why, though whether it will be possible to catch the person involved is another matter. Once I got the hang of all the political machinations, and figured ot who everybody was, I started to enjoy it it quite a lot. There are some excellent characters and some fascinating themes, including the history of the violin and of Paganini, the greatest violinist of all time. Like several other things, this appears to have nothing to do with the main story but proves to do so in the end -- in fact I think the original title of the novel was The Paganini Contract. As for it's present title, its full meaning only becomes clear quite near the end, and though I'd love to tell you the implications I feel I'd better not in case I spoil your fun.
Final verdict? Interesting, exciting, ultimately disturbing and thought-provoking. Worth persevering as it definitely hots up as you get further in. Anyone out there read it yet?