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An Interview with Lars Kepler, Author of The Hypnotist

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I have to admit I was getting, for a time, a bit burned out on what one publicist has dubbed “Nordic noir.” I devoured and loved Stieg Larsson’s Millenium trilogy and liked the books of James Thompson, interviewed here at Blogcritics, but when I saw the publicity and hype for Lars Kepler and Ann Long’s The Hypnotist, I was a bit hesitant at first. Did I want to read another book full of dark moods and violence and perhaps sex, all seeming prerequisites for this genre?

But after reading pieces praising the book -and intrigued by the fact that this book was written by two more traditional authors under a pen name, as they discussed in an interview — I arranged for this interview of my own with this couple.

The Hypnotist lives up to the hype, in my opinion. It is indeed dark and, of course, full of gore as per the genre. It also has some surprise twists.

Then I waited for their interview answers to come in… And then the madness in Norway happened Friday, the crazed man who killed (after recent revision by Norwegian police) 76 people. Suddenly, I was rethinking one of my questions asking why this genre has so much violence in a region not known for its violence, not knowing at that point if this man was lying or not about having others working in tandem.

Fortunately the authors allude to this violence in their interview saving me from having to ask an awkward follow-up question and so far it appears the killer did indeed act alone.

And with that let’s get to the interview itself…

First, how would you describe the protagonists in this book, the first in a series: Joona Linna and Dr. Erik Maria Bark? Will both characters return in the later books or just the police investigator?

The stubborn Detective Inspector Joona Linna is a hero with a mysterious past. He is the most important character to us, because he works as a guarantee for us when we write. We’re pretty sure that he will solve the case, stop the perpetrator and find out the riddle. We wouldn’t dare to write about what scares us the most if we didn’t have him.

Joona is the main character for the whole series, but Erik is the main character of our debut. Erik will not return even though we like him a lot, he’s special to us, maybe because he’s both weak and strong, he reminds us about the fact that we all are combinations of good and bad sides.

There’s been a lot of media attention on what some have called “Nordic noir.” I’d be curious as to your thoughts of these authors who have gotten some attention: Stieg Larsson, James Thompson and Jo Nesbro? Why do you think so many of those authors, as well as your own book, have so much violence? Or is that an aspect of Swedish and Nordic culture?

 Extreme and horrible violence is one of humanity’s contributions to the world, even though it hurts to admit it. See the news. Reality is partly incredibly frightening. It came very close just now with the hideous and so tragic events in Norway.

To us crime fiction is an optimistic genre – everything will turn out in a good way in the end.

We write about what scares us the most, in a way we all want to be scared, but only because we’re safe, we know that our detective inspector Joona Linna will solve the case, stop the perpetrator and find out the riddle. That will not happen in reality, unfortunately.

About Scott Butki

Scott Butki was a newspaper reporter for more than 10 years before making a career change into education... then into special education. He has been doing special education work for about five years He lives in Austin. He reads at least 50 books a year and has about 15 author interviews each year and, yes, unlike tv hosts he actually reads each one. He is an in-house media critic, a recovering Tetris addict and a proud uncle. He has written articles on practically all topics from zoos to apples and almost everything in between.