Late author Stieg Larsson left the world with an incredible gift. Based on the enormous global success of his “Millennium” trilogy—The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series—he opened the door for numerous Scandinavian thriller writers to follow his lead.
Many of these authors have already made a name for themselves and clearly stand on their own merit—Jo Nesbo, Henning Mankell and Camilla Lackberg to name a few. Others, like the husband-and-wife team writing under the pseudonym of Lars Kepler, have clearly jumped on the Larsson wave while still attempting to find their own identity.
Their first novel, The Hypnotist, was a solid thriller recently made into a film by Lasse Hallstrom. That novel introduced us to Swedish Detective Inspector Joona Linna. Joona spent much of the first novel teaming with a hypnotist who was pivotal in a series of brutal murders. The scenes that featured hypnosis were particularly effective.
The follow-up Joona Linna thriller, The Nightmare, does not have the benefit of a hypnosis gimmick and lacks as a thriller as a result. The Nightmare features two murders that drive the novel: the body of a woman on a yacht who is the apparent victim of drowning even though no water is found around her, and the alleged suicide of a well-dressed businessman who had deep political ties.
Joona is called upon to work on these investigations simultaneously and, as expected, begins to uncover threads of evidence that may implicate the two random murders as part of a more sinister plot. These vicious crimes may be part of a nightmare that drives a group of professional killers to commit these acts.
When the dead businessman is revealed to be involved in the arms-trading game, Joona realizes that a conspiracy may be at the heart of his investigation. This conspiracy may have global implications, and some very dangerous people will stop at nothing to keep Joona and his team from discovering the truth.
The Nightmare presents some intriguing premises that make for a thriller worth checking out. Unfortunately, the novel is over-long and never seems to provide the level of suspense and horror that Lars Kepler exhibited in The Hypnotist.