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The Nightmare

The Nightmare

4.2 28
by Lars Kepler

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Lars Kepler returns with a piercing, bestselling sequel to The Hypnotist

After spellbinding audiences in The Hypnotist, Detective Inspector Joona Linna is back in The Nightmare, an internationally bestselling Swedish thriller published to critical acclaim in dozens of countries. As the Swedish newspaper Arbetarbladet put it, “The


Lars Kepler returns with a piercing, bestselling sequel to The Hypnotist

After spellbinding audiences in The Hypnotist, Detective Inspector Joona Linna is back in The Nightmare, an internationally bestselling Swedish thriller published to critical acclaim in dozens of countries. As the Swedish newspaper Arbetarbladet put it, “The reader is ready to sell his own soul for the opportunity to read this book without interruption, in one sitting.”

On a summer night, police recover the body of a young woman from an abandoned pleasure boat drifting around the Stockholm archipelago. Her lungs are filled with brackish water, and the forensics team is sure that she drowned. Why, then, is the pleasure boat still afloat, and why are there no traces of water on her clothes or body?

The next day, a man turns up dead in his state apartment in Stockholm, hanging from a lamp hook. All signs point to suicide, but the room has a high ceiling, and there’s not a single piece of furniture around—nothing to climb on.

Joona Linna begins to piece together the two mysteries, but the logistics are a mere prelude to a dizzying and dangerous course of events. At its core, the most frightening aspect of The Nightmare isn’t its gruesome crimes—it’s the dark psychology of its characters, who show us how blind we are to our own motives.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Joona Linna looks into two bizarre deaths in Kepler’s complex second novel featuring the Stockholm detective inspector (after 2011’s The Hypnotist). Carl Palmcrona, the general director of the National Inspectorate of Strategic Products, which oversees military exports, is found hanged in an empty room in his house, while the Coast Guard discovers Penelope Fernandez drowned on a drifting motorboat in dry clothes. Linna senses there’s more to both deaths than meets the eye, especially after Penelope’s peace activist sister—who wasn’t one to keep her views on Sweden’s arms export business to places like Sudan a secret—goes missing. With the possible terrorist angle to consider, Linna must vie for control of the case with Säpo, the Swedish Security Service, and reluctantly joins forces with a 25-year-old female Säpo inspector. Fans of slow-burning Scandinavian crime fiction with troubled heroes will feel right at home with Kepler, the pseudonym of a Swedish literary couple. Agent: Jonas Axelsson, Bonnier Group Agency. (July)
From the Publisher

“Mark Bramhall follows his success with Kepler's THE HYPNOTIST to envelop listeners in another thriller featuring detective Joona Linna…Bramhall is a maestro of the musical cadences of endless Swedish proper names and locations. The unfamiliar words, definite tongue-twisting challenges, are rendered perfectly, or at least perfectly believably to American ears. Bramhall orchestrates the highs and lows of both inflection and emotion, as well as tenderness and error. He carefully sorts dozens of characters with simple vocal and emotional color, including the teams of police officers. The challenges of this narration are all met – brilliantly.” —AudioFile Magazine, AudioFile Earphones Award Winner

“This is a crime fiction with real depth, multifaceted characters and a relentless, pounding pace.” —BookPage

“Narrator Mark Bramhall smoothly handles tongue-twisting Nordic names, and sets a pace that allows the listener to properly process the often-perplexing events without diminishing their chilling effect.” —Publishers Weekly

Library Journal
The body of a young woman is discovered on a boat drifting about the Stockholm archipelago, her lungs full of salt water but her clothes and body bone dry. A man hangs from a lamp-hook in his state apartment and would be ruled a suicide but for the absence of furniture to clamber onto in the high-ceilinged room. Just two more mysteries to solve for Det. Joona Linna, first seen in last year's The Hypnotist, well regarded by those who like swift and twisty reads.
Kirkus Reviews
Aren't Swedes supposed to be nice socialists? Not if they're arms dealers, the milieu of this latest whodunit by the Stockholm couple who writes as Lars Kepler (The Hypnotist, 2011). Scene one: The sister of a Central American peace activist, her skin "the soft golden color of virgin olive oil or honey," is brutally murdered. The activist's boyfriend, it seems, may know why. But then comes scene two: The director of the National Inspectorate of Strategic Products--for which read weaponry--turns up dead, too, dispatched most brutally. Mulls the investigating officer, "Joona. I have to talk to Joona Linna immediately." Et voilà: As world-weary as, if slightly less morose than, Henning Mankell's Kurt Wallander, Joona Linna, detective extraordinaire, is on the scene. Did we say extraordinaire? Yah, sure: As one cop recalls, "I'd say I'm fairly well versed in forensics...but Joona walked in, took a look at the blood spatters...He knew right away when each murder had occurred." Things don't go quite so smoothly for Joona this time around, though, as the novel's 500-plus pages might suggest. For one thing, those arms dealers are an oily, nasty, evil, sneering and altogether sinister bunch, even if they have nice haircuts and well-manicured nails. For another, there are countless red herrings in herring-rich Sweden. Suffice it to say that Kepler has a most pronounced penchant, à la Larsson, for describing exceptionally nasty criminal behavior ("Answer me! You want me to shoot your wife again or rape your sister?"). And suffice it to say that when the bad guys are finally revealed, it's not a minute too soon--and not just because those 500-plus pages are 100-odd pages more than the story really calls for. Overall, less expertly told and deeply layered than a Henning Mankell yarn, less politically charged than a Stieg Larsson caper, and less well-written than any of Janwillem van de Wetering's procedurals down Holland way--but still a satisfying thriller.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Detective Inspector Joona Linna

Read an Excerpt

The Nightmare

By Lars Kepler, Laura A. Wideburg

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Copyright © 2010 Lars Kepler
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4668-2016-6



A cold shiver runs down Penelope Fernandez's spine. Her heart beats faster and she darts a look over her shoulder. Perhaps she feels a sense of foreboding of what's to come as her day progresses.

In spite of the television studio's heat, Penelope's face feels chilled. Maybe the sensation is left over from her time in makeup when the cold powder puff was pressed to her skin and the peace-dove hair clip was taken out so they could rub in the mousse that would make her hair fall in serpentine locks.

Penelope Fernandez is the spokesperson for the Swedish Peace and Reconciliation Society. Silently, she is being ushered into the newsroom and to her spotlighted seat across from Pontus Salman, CEO of the armaments manufacturer Silencia Defense AB. The news anchor Stefanie von Sydow is narrating a report on all the layoffs resulting from the purchase of the Bofors Corporation by British BAE Systems Limited. Then she turns to Penelope.

"Penelope Fernandez, in several public debates you have been critical of the management of Swedish arms exports. In fact, you recently compared it to the French Angola-gate scandal. There, highly placed politicians and businessmen were prosecuted for bribery and weapons smuggling and given long prison sentences. But here in Sweden? We really haven't seen this, have we?"

"Well, you can interpret this in two ways," replies Penelope. "Either our politicians behave differently or our justice system works differently."

"You know very well," begins Pontus Salman, "that we have a long tradition of —"

"According to Swedish law," Penelope says, "all manufacture and export of armaments are illegal."

"You're wrong, of course," says Salman.

"Paragraphs 3 and 6 of the Military Equipment Act," Penelope points out with precision.

"We at Silencia Defense have already gotten a positive preliminary decision." Salman smiles.

"Otherwise this would be a case of major weapons crimes and —"

"But, we do have permission."

"Don't forget the rationale for armaments —"

"Just a moment, Penelope." Stefanie von Sydow stops her and nods to Pontus Salman, who's lifted his hand to signal that he wasn't finished.

"All business transactions are reviewed in advance," he explains. "Either directly by the government or by the National Inspectorate of Strategic Products, if you know what that is."

"France has similar regulations," says Penelope. "And yet military equipment worth eight million Swedish crowns landed in Angola despite the UN weapons embargo and in spite of a completely binding prohibition —"

"We're not talking about France, we're talking about Sweden."

"I know that people want to keep their jobs, but I still would like to hear how you can explain the export of enormous amounts of ammunition to Kenya? It's a country that —"

"You have no proof," he says. "Nothing. Not one shred. Or do you?"

"Unfortunately, I cannot —"

"You have no concrete evidence?" asks Stefanie von Sydow.

"No, but I —"

"Then I think I'm owed an apology," says Pontus Salman.

Penelope stares him in the eyes, her anger and frustration boiling up, but she tamps it down, stays silent. Pontus Salman smiles smugly and begins to talk about Silencia Defense's factory in Trollhättan. Two hundred new jobs were created when they were given permission to start production, he says. He speaks slowly and in elaborate detail, deftly truncating the time left for his opponent.

As Penelope listens, she forces aside her anger by focusing on other matters. Soon, very soon, she and Björn will board his boat. They'll make up the arrow-shaped bed in the forecabin and fill the refrigerator and tiny freezer with treats. She conjures up the frosted schnapps glasses, and the platter of marinated herring, mustard herring, soused herring, fresh potatoes, boiled eggs, and hardtack. After they anchor at a tiny island in the archipelago, they'll set the table on the afterdeck and sit there eating in the evening sun for hours.

* * *

Penelope Fernandez walks out of the Swedish Television building and heads toward Valhallavägen. She wasted two hours waiting for a slot in another morning program before the producer finally told her she'd been bumped by a segment on quick tips for a summer tummy. Far away, on the fields of Gärdet, she can make out the colorful tents of Circus Maximus and the little forms of two elephants, probably very large. One raises his trunk high in the air.

Penelope is only twenty-four years old. She has curly black hair cut to her shoulders, and a tiny crucifix, a confirmation present, glitters from a silver chain around her neck. Her skin is the soft golden color of virgin olive oil or honey, as a boy in high school said during a project where the students were supposed to describe one another. Her eyes are large and serious. More than once, she's heard herself described as looking like Sophia Loren.

Penelope pulls out her cell phone to let Björn know she's on her way. She'll be taking the subway from Karlaplan station.

"Penny? Is something wrong?" Björn sounds rushed.

"No, why do you ask?"

"Everything's set. I left a message on your machine. You're all that's missing."

"No need to stress, then, right?"

As Penelope takes the steep escalator down to the subway platform, her heart begins to beat uneasily. She closes her eyes. The escalator sinks downward, seeming to shrink as the air becomes cooler and cooler.

Penelope Fernandez comes from La Libertad, one of the largest provinces in El Salvador. She was born in a jail cell, her mother attended by fifteen female prisoners doing their best as midwives. There was a civil war going on, and Claudia Fernandez, a doctor and activist, had landed in the regime's infamous prison for encouraging the indigenous population to form unions.

Penelope opens her eyes as she reaches the platform. Her claustrophobic feeling has passed. She thinks about Björn waiting for her at the motorboat club on Långholmen. She loves skinny-dipping from his boat, diving straight into the water, seeing nothing but sea and sky.

She steps onto the subway, which rumbles on, gently swaying, until it breaks out into the open as it reaches the station at Gamla Stan and sunlight streams in through the windows.

Like her mother, Penelope is an activist and her passionate opposition to war and violence led her to get her master's in political science at Uppsala University with a specialty in peace and conflict resolution. She's worked for the French aid organization Action Contre la Faim in Darfur, southern Sudan, with Jane Oduya, and her article for Dagens Nyheter, on the women of the refugee camp and their struggles to regain normalcy after every attack, brought broad recognition. Two years ago, she followed Frida Blom as the spokesperson for the Swedish Peace and Reconciliation Society.

Leaving the subway at the Hornstull station, Penelope feels uneasy again, extremely uneasy, without knowing why. She runs down the hill to Söder Mälarstrand, then walks quickly over the bridge to Långholmen and follows the road to the small harbor. The dust she kicks up from the gravel creates a haze in the still air.

Björn's boat is in the shade directly underneath Väster Bridge. The movement of the water dapples the gray girders with a network of light.

Penelope spots Björn on the afterdeck. He's got on his cowboy hat, and he stands stock-still, shoulders bent, with his arms wrapped closely about him. Sticking two fingers in her mouth, she lets loose a whistle, startling him, and he turns toward her with a face naked with fear. And it's still there in his eyes when she climbs down the stairs to the dock. "What's wrong?" she asks.

"Nothing," he answers, as he straightens his hat and tries to smile.

As they hug, she notices his hands are ice-cold and the back of his shirt is damp.

"You're covered in sweat."

Björn avoids her eyes. "It's been stressful getting ready to go."

"Bring my bag?"

He nods and gestures toward the cabin. The boat rocks gently under her feet and the air smells of lacquered wood and sun-warmed plastic.

"Hello? Anybody home?" she asks, tapping his head.

His clear blue eyes are childlike and his straw-colored hair sticks out in tight dreadlocks from under the hat. "I'm here," he says. But he looks away.

"What are you thinking about? Where's your mind gone to?"

"Just that we're finally heading off together," he answers as he wraps his arms around her waist. "And that we'll be having sex out in nature."

He buries his lips in her hair.

"So that's what you're dreaming of," she whispers.


She laughs at his honesty.

"Most people ... women, I mean, think that sex outdoors is a bit overrated," she says. "Lying on the ground among ants and stones and —"

"No. No. It's just like swimming naked," he insists.

"You'll have to convince me," she teases.

"I'll do that, all right."

"How?" She's laughing as the phone rings in her cloth bag.

Björn stiffens when he hears the signal. Penelope glances at the display.

"It's Viola," she says reassuringly before answering. "Hola, Sis."

A car horn blares over the line as her sister yells in its direction. "Fucking idiot."

"Viola, what's going on?"

"It's over. I've dumped Sergei."

"Not again!" Penelope says.

"Yes, again," says Viola, noticeably depressed.

"Sorry," Penelope says. "I can tell you're upset."

"Well, I'll be all right I guess. But ... Mamma said you were going out on the boat and I thought ... maybe I could come, too, if you don't mind ..."

A moment of silence.

"Sure, you can come, too," Penelope says, although she hears her own lack of enthusiasm. "Björn and I need some time to ourselves, but ..."


the pursuer

Penelope stands at the helm. An airy blue sarong is wrapped around her hips and there's a peace sign on the right breast of her white bikini top. Spring sunlight pours through the windshield as she carefully rounds Kungshamn lighthouse and maneuvers the large motorboat into the narrow sound.

Her younger sister, Viola, gets up from the pink recliner on the afterdeck. For the past hour, she's been lying back in Björn's cowboy hat and enormous sunglasses, languidly smoking a joint.

Five times she tries to pick up a matchbox from the floor with her toes. Penelope can't help smiling. Viola walks into the cockpit and offers to take the wheel for a while. "Otherwise, I'll go downstairs and make myself a margarita," she says, as she continues down the stairs.

Björn is lying on the foredeck, a paperback copy of Ovid's Metamorphoses put to use as his pillow. Penelope notices that the railing near his feet is rusting. The boat was a present from his father for his twentieth birthday, but Björn hasn't had the money to keep it up. It was the only gift his father ever gave him, except one time when his father paid for a trip. When Björn's father turned fifty, he invited Björn and Penelope to one of his finest properties, a five-star hotel called Kamaya Resort on the east coast of Kenya. Penelope endured the resort for two days before she took off to join Action Contre la Faim at the refugee camp in Kubbum, Darfur.

Penelope reduces speed from eight to five knots as they reach the bridge at Skuru Sound. They've just glided into the shadows when Penelope notices the black rubber boat. Pressed against the concrete foundation, it's the same kind the military uses for their coastal rangers: an RIB with a fiberglass hull and extremely powerful engines. Penelope has almost passed beneath the bridge when she notices a man hunched in the darkness, his back turned. She doesn't know why her pulse starts to race at the sight of him; something about his neck and the black clothes he wears bothers her. She feels he's watching her even though he sits turned away.

Back into sunshine, she starts to shiver; goose bumps cover her arms. She guns the boat to fifteen knots. The two inboard engines drone powerfully, and the wake streams white behind them as the boat takes off over the smooth surface of the water.

Penelope's phone rings. It's her mother. For a moment Penelope fantasizes that she's calling to tell Penelope how wonderful she'd been on TV earlier, but she snaps back to reality.

"Hi, Mamma."

"Ay, ay."

"What's wrong?"

"My back. I'll have to go to the chiropractor," Claudia says, loudly filling a glass with tap water. "I just wanted to learn if you've talked to your sister."

"She's on the boat with us," Penelope replies, listening to her mother gulp the water down.

"She's with you ... how nice. I thought it would be good for her to get out."

"I'm sure it is," Penelope says quietly.

"What do you have to eat?"

"Pickled herring and potatoes, eggs —"

"Viola doesn't like herring. What else do you have?"

"I've made a few meatballs," Penelope says patiently.

"Enough for everyone?"

Penelope falls silent as she looks out over the water. "I can always skip them myself," she says, collecting herself.

"Only if there aren't enough," her mother says. "That's all I'm trying to say."

"I understand."

"Am I supposed to be feeling sorry for you now?" her mother demands with irritation.

"It's just that ... Viola is not a child —"

"I remember all the years I made you meatballs for Christmas and Midsummer and —"

"Maybe I shouldn't have eaten them."

"All right then," her mother says sharply. "If that's the way you want it."

"I'm just trying to say —"

"You don't have to come for Midsummer," Claudia snaps.

"Oh, Mamma, why do you have to —"

Her mother has hung up. Penelope shakes with frustration.

The stairs from the galley creak and a moment later Viola appears, a margarita in hand. "Was that Mamma?"

"Yes, it was."

"Worried I wouldn't get enough to eat?" Viola can't hide a smile.

"Believe me, we have food on board," Penelope says.

"Mamma doesn't believe I can take care of myself."

"She worries about you."

"She never worries about you," Viola points out.

"I can take care of myself."

Viola takes a sip of her drink and looks out through the windshield.

"I saw you on TV," she says.

"This morning? When I met Pontus Salman?"

"No, it was ... last week," Viola replies. "You were talking to that arrogant man with the aristocratic name —"

"Palmcrona," Penelope says.

"Palmcrona, right."

"You can't believe how angry he made me! I could feel my face turning beet red, and the tears strated coming and I couldn't stop them. I felt like jumping up and reciting Bob Dylan's 'Masters of War' to his face, or like running out and slamming the studio door behind me."

Viola's only half listening. She watches Penelope stretch as she opens the roof window. "I didn't realize you've started to shave your armpits," she says.

"Well, these days I've been in the media so much that —"

"Vanity, pure vanity!" Viola says with a laugh.

"I didn't want people to dismiss me as a dogmatist just because I have some pit hair."

"What about your bikini line, then?"

"Well, that's not going so well ..."

Penelope pulls aside her sarong and Viola laughs out loud.

"Björn likes it," Penelope says with a little smile.

"He can't talk, not with those dreads of his."

"I imagine you shave everywhere you have to," Penelope says sharply. "Just to please your married men and your big-muscled idiots and —"

"I know I have bad taste in men."

"You have good taste in most other areas."

"I've never amounted to much, though."

"If you'd just finished school, gotten good grades ..."

Viola shrugs. "I actually got my equivalency."

The boat plows gently through the water, green now, reflecting the surrounding hillsides. Seagulls follow overhead.

"So, how did it go?"

"I thought the exam was easy," Viola says, licking salt from the edge of her glass.

"So it went well?"

Viola nods and puts her glass down.

"How well?" Penelope nudges her sister in her side.

"One hundred percent." Viola looks down modestly.

Penelope laughs with happiness and hugs her sister hard.

"Do you realize what this means? Now you can be anything you want! You can go to whichever university you want and study anything you like! You can pick anything at all! Business, medicine, journalism!"

The sisters laugh and their cheeks flush. Penelope hugs her sister so hard that the cowboy hat falls off. She smoothes Viola's hair and pats it into place just as she used to do when they were small. She removes the clip with the peace dove from her hair and slides it into her sister's, smiling contentedly.


a boat adrift in jungfrufjärden bay

With roaring engines, Penelope steers toward the bay. The bow arches up; white, frothy water parts behind the stern.

"You've lost your mind, girl!" Viola yells as she pulls the hair clip loose, just as she used to do when she was little and her mother almost had her hair done.

Björn wakes up when they stop at Goose Island for an ice cream. Viola insists on a round of miniature golf, too, so it's late in the afternoon when they set out again.


Excerpted from The Nightmare by Lars Kepler, Laura A. Wideburg. Copyright © 2010 Lars Kepler. Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Lars Kepler is a pseudonym for a literary couple who live and write in Sweden.

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The Nightmare: A Novel 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 28 reviews.
sixtyplus More than 1 year ago
I am not sure how I missed Lars Kepler but I certainly won't stop buying their books now. This is a man and wife writing under this name. Non-stop suspense and could not put down. I am a fan you can be sure. The Hypnotist is being made into a movie. I just wish it was in English. Both The Nightmare and the Hypnotist are a read until the end suspense. I can't wait for their new book, The Fire Witness due out in July. Explosive fiction at its best.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This has to be the most thrilling book I've read in a long time. Finished in one day.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Enjoyable read, but reads a bit like pulp fiction due to the simplicity of the characters. Story is fun though. I would suggest it to friends knowing it won't keep you awake at night reading.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Lars Kepler is an excellent suspense writer. I've enjoyed everything I've read by him. The plot has lots of twists and turns. The characters are well defined. His detective that appears in two books is very likeable.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Daisy22NR More than 1 year ago
If you like a mystery, you will love The Nightmare. Lots of twists and turns that come together in the end. I love Joona Linna's personality. Had a hard time putting this book down.
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KarenHA More than 1 year ago
This one's even better than The Hypnotist and think the series thus far is every bit as good as the Millenium series by Larssen!
PCSTEXAS More than 1 year ago
I liked this book allot more than the Hypnotist. Maybe cuz I was already familiar with Joona Linna, the main charater, or it was translated better. I might have liked it even more if I was into classical music or had played the violin in school. It was easy to read, easy to follow, a little far fetched that the bad guys would go so far and that someone could tell what song was being played by a still picture of instruments. I found it somewhat annoying that the author(s) apparently don't know much about guns and wrote a story about Arms Dealers. This might be a weak attempt at a polictical statement but so weak you can't tell. They picked a wrong gun/caliber for the bad guy arms dealer to use (a Winchester 490 is a .22 rifle), used unnecessary detail on FMJ or HP and used Parabellum to discribe a type of cartridge. (About 100 years ago Parabellum was used to differentiate between the 9x19mm Lugar - "9mm", and the 9x17mm Makarov now the ".380"). Maybe they still use that word in Europe but he can't shoot 380/Makarovs thru his 9mm and shouldn't even have them around. The author(s) probably couldn't resist using a word that in Latin means "prepare for war", even though it comes from the phrase Si vis pacium, para bellum... if you want peace, prepare for war, which they probably did't know either. (Plato?) They should stick to weapons they know like the Swedish M/45, Russian AK or the new Belgian FN 5.7, the latest NATO pistol. The bad guys are Arms Dealers, shouldn't they shoot the latest cool stuff? They were probably taking a shot at US Arms but all the Winchester 490s were made in Canada. (missed again) I was able to get past all that and enjoy the book anyway.
Sherryv07 More than 1 year ago
Loved both the hypnotist and this. Really kept interest.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great sequel to The Hypnotist! Characters well developed and plot very intriguing. Not sure where the confusion comes in as per one of the reviewers post. Wouldn't be surprised if it's made into a movie like The Hypnotist is. Highly recommend it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is so confusing I feel like giving up.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
May i join
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Can i join? Sorry i already posted in the first res cuz i didnt realize we had to ask here...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Improbable plot and long drawn out narrative. Couldn't wait to finish this dreck. Unsatifying ending that clearly sets us up for another book. No thanks. I'm not falling for it and purchasing the next book. Clearly The Hypnotist was a fluke or written by someone else.