"Stalker" Lars Kepler
I was delighted to win a copy of this from Killer Reads after entering a competition where you had to say which book had scared you so much you couldn't sleep. First I listed "You" by Caroline Kepnes but then had to add that actually, it's "The Woman in Black" by Susan Hill- even writing the title makes me shiver!
This is the fifth book in the Joona Linna series. I have only read one other ("The Hypnotist") but for me, I don't think it detracted from the plot although from what other reviewers have said, I probably would have gained a little more had I been more familiar with some of the finer details of the back story and past events.
This novel is immediately intriguing and it is obvious from the very first page that this book is going to unsettle and disturb even the most fearless amongst us! The reason I entered the competition was because I thought the front cover was so sparse and so bleak, it was in itself scary enough to stop me from sleeping! It opens with a definition of a stalker:
"A stalker is someone who suffers from obsessive fixation disorder, an unlikely obsession with monitoring another individuals activities ........the pathological obsessiveness of the stalker brings with it a self generating potential for danger...can suddenly become extremely violent."
The final words of the definition above show why stalking is always taken seriously by the police. The explanation of how an obsession can escalate into danger and violence sent another chill down my spine. It then states that 10% of the population will be subjected to some form of stalking in their lifetime and I think that is what makes this book so unnerving - it is a situation that any of us could find ourselves in. This crime is perhaps more easy to relate to than some of the other situations featured in crime fiction. It's possible lots of us have had slightly uncomfortable experiences of someone invading our "personal space" a little too much and surely the more imaginative (imaginative, not highly strung you understand!) amongst us have wondered that great questions all good authors start their writing with...."What if...."
The novel hurtles straight into the action with the police receiving a video clip of a woman who has secretly been filmed through her window. The next day she is found dead. Then they receive another clip but there is so little evidence about location, time, place and person on it that the Criminal Investigation Team feel helpless: "We can see right into her life but we can't find out who she is until she's dead and someone finds her body." This sense of foreboding failure and helplessness from the very people we rely on to keep us safe and solve the mysteries is a great way to open a book.
What is brilliant about the opening is that one moment we are with the investigation team watching a video of the woman - who is unaware of anyone filming her as she moves around her house- and the next minute we find ourselves in the woman's house, living the moments again, knowing that she is being filmed by a potential murderer. This switch of narrative perspective was really clever and I must admit I read this whole section without remembering to breathe. It could have been me in my house, forgetting to shut the back door as it's a warm evening, walking around without drawing the curtains....scaring myself as I hear little noises which seem to be nothing....thinking I catch a glimpse of something in the window.... The use of lights, reflections and windows was very clever and definitely peppered the section with constant moments of high tension and unease. It was also very filmic and so well captured it must be one of the most nerve wracking passages I have ever read!
Tension is effectively created throughout the novel. Things are well described, characters very realistic and the various different threads of the story are woven together in a very controlled and satisfying way. The chapters are short, moving between different voices and characters so the reader is always wanting to read on. It is easy to lose track of time as you try to fit in "just one more bit." The novel is written with a lot of short sentences and short paragraphs. This creates further tension and suspense as well as making it a very readable and accessible novel although for me, I did find it a little jerky and jarring at times.
This is a very solid crime novel and will definitely appeal to readers who enjoy thrillers. It will have a wide appeal as the behaviour of stalkers always seems to interest people - maybe because it could happen to anyone and is something that can spiral out of control quickly. As the opening definition explains, is something that starts as an obsession, becomes fanatical and then dangerously violent.
I'm glad I had the chance to read this novel just as it was published (5th May 2016) as it would definitely have been on my "To Read" list! It was a great prize and my thanks to Killer Reads for sending it on! I will be looking out for future competitions as well as forthcoming recommendations from them! You can follow them on Twitter @KillerReads or Facebook.
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