Buzzworthy 2019 Book #1: STALKER by Lars Kepler
Alfred A. Knopf; February 5, 2019
With another new year on the horizon, it’s time to begin one of my personal favorite blog series: Buzzworthy 2019 Books! If you’re new to CBTB, my “Buzzworthy Books” picks are aimed at highlighting early 2019 releases that might still be a few months away, but are worth adding to your TBR now. In these posts, I will highlight three key elements that make the featured book a must-read. I will be periodically releasing these Buzzworthy Books selections as we approach the new year—and once 2019 arrives, I’ll have a blog post up giving you a complete list of my Buzzworthy 2019 Books! So now, on to my first pick…
I can think of no better book with which to start this series than STALKER by Lars Kepler. But before we dig into this post, a disclaimer: I’ve been a long-time fan of Kepler, and I’m now handling publicity for Kepler’s 2019 release STALKER as part of my new job! Due to these unique circumstances, I am not going to be writing a traditional review of this book. Instead, I will be sticking to this “Buzzworthy Books” post, which will highlight three key elements of STALKER that I personally loved as a reader. Given that Kepler has been such a staple of Crime by the Book, I couldn’t not highlight their newest release for you guys - it’s a dream come true to help spread the word about the newest book by one of my favorite authors as part of my “day job,” but I wanted to bring this book to your attention on a reader-to-reader level in today’s post. Fun fact: last year, I chose Lars Kepler’s THE SANDMAN as one of my “Buzzworthy 2018 Books”—so this post feels like things coming full circle in the most amazing way! I can’t wait for you guys to get your hands on STALKER in just a few months—I’m so excited to hear what you think of it.
So why, in big-picture terms, do I love Lars Kepler? If you’ve been around Crime by the Book for a little while, you’re likely to already know my answers to this question, but they bear repeating. No surprise here, but Scandinavian crime fiction is my personal favorite crime fiction sub-genre, and Kepler is one of the most unique and compelling authors working in this space. Kepler is actually the pseudonym for a husband-and-wife writing team (!), and their approach to crime writing is wholly unique and fascinating. Kepler’s books are action-packed, page-turning thrillers; Kepler stays true to Nordic Noir in the grit and melancholic atmosphere of their writing, but their thrillers are more focused on compact writing and binge-able pacing than the work of many of their peers. These aren’t your standard police procedurals - they’re page-turning, up-all-night reads. When I want a crime novel that’s gritty, unputdownable, and very dark, Kepler is one of my go-to authors; Kepler’s books are as much for readers of classic Nordic Noir as they are for fans of serial killer thrillers like The Silence of the Lambs and The Fourth Monkey.
So without further ado, let’s dive into my very first Buzzworthy 2019 Books pick: STALKER by Lars Kepler.
STALKER by Lars Kepler
The internationally bestselling authors of The Sandman and The Hypnotist return with a terrifying new thriller: Detective Joona Linna--recently returned from compassionate leave--reunites with hypnotist Erik Maria Bark in a search for a seemingly unassailable sadistic killer.
The Swedish National Crime Unit receives a video of a young woman in her home, clearly unaware that she's being watched. Soon after the tape is received, the woman's body is found horrifically mutilated. With the arrival of the next, similar video, the police understand that the killer is toying with them, warning of a new victim, knowing there's nothing they can do. Detective Margot Silverman is put in charge of the investigation, and soon asks Detective Joona Linna for help. Linna, in turn, recruits Erik Maria Bark, the hypnotist and expert in trauma, with whom Linna's worked before. Bark is leery of forcing people to give up their secrets. But this time, Bark is the one hiding things.
Years before, he had put a man away for an eerily similar crime, and now he's beginning to think that an innocent man may be behind bars--and a serial killer still on the loose…
What to Love About STALKER
Three key elements that make STALKER a 2019 must-read:
Gripping, action-packed plotting. Kepler is not your standard Scandinavian crime writer. (And this is coming from someone who loves more traditional Scandinavian crime novels, too!) As you guys know, I’m a firm believer that expectations are key when determining if a book will be up your alley. In the case of Lars Kepler and STALKER, you an expect to dig into a crime novel that reads more like an edgy, gritty serial killer thriller than a layered procedural, as is more typical of the Nordic Noir genre. Kepler writes with a huge emphasis on page-turning plotting, and they deliver big time in STALKER. Written with their characteristic short chapters (which lend themselves to binge-reading!), the pacing of STALKER moves readers right along from tense scene to tense scene. This book clocks in at over 500 pages, but I genuinely read it in just about two nights—that’s how addictive their writing is. And just because the book is fast-paced doesn’t mean it doesn’t also have engrossing details about policework for readers to sink their teeth into; indeed, readers will love following the Swedish National Crime Unit as they investigate an almost unimaginably dark series of crimes. Instead, it just means that get these details alongside action-packed, gripping plotting.
Terrifyingly plausible crimes. The serial killer at the heart of STALKER got under my skin in a big way. That’s because these crimes - though very violent - start with a simple concept: someone is watching you. How many of us actually pay close attention to the strangers we run into on our daily commutes? How many of us have forgotten to close the curtains in the evening as we eat dinner, watch TV, or read a book? There’s something about crime novels that start with a simple premise that seem to affect me most of all, and STALKER was no exception. In this gripping read, a killer is taunting the police by sending in videos of his next victims. In these videos, the killer’s targets are clearly unaware that they are being filmed; they’re just ordinary people going about their ordinary routines, blissfully unaware that they’ve caught the eye of a monster. Sure, the crimes depicted in STALKER are dramatized for effect, but the premise for this thriller is very, very simple—and that’s what makes it so creepy. I’ll just say this: I’m vigilant about closing my blinds as soon as the sun begins to set thanks to this book.
A killer reveal—and a villain you’ll love to hate. It’s not too often that a Scandinavian crime novel includes a jaw-dropping twist, but STALKER sure does. It’s nearly impossible to discuss this piece of the deliciously dark puzzle that is STALKER without spoiling it (which I would never do!), so let me try to delicately dance around this… I was feeling very, very clever, thinking I had figured this mystery all out when Kepler entirely pulled the rug out from under me. It sounds a bit dramatic, but it’s no exaggeration: I was left in open-mouthed shock when I discovered what Kepler had been setting the reader up for this whole entire time. The big reveal in this thriller is the perfect balance of shocking and logical enough to satisfy; I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t seen it coming, but I was so glad to be as surprised as I was. And, true to form, Kepler does a fantastic job developing a rich backstory for this villain, too—you’ll be fascinated by the psychology of this story’s antagonist as Kepler takes you up close and personal to a truly deranged mind.
That’s a wrap on my first Buzzworthy 2019 Books post! Stay tuned for more picks in this series over the next two months. As always, happy reading! xx A
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. All opinions my own.
Series: Joona Linna (Book 5)
Hardcover: 560 pages
Publisher: Knopf (February 5, 2019)
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