More trademark murder and mayhem from the pseudonymous mysterian Kepler (The Sandman, 2018, etc.), bringing in the back bench to solve the various unpleasantries.
Joona Linna, the tough but anguished Stockholm cop, has stalked off, wanting to be alone. Margot Silverman, pregnant and miserable, is working without him, trying to keep a step ahead of the bad guys in the endless war of good and evil. She’s perplexed: A taunting video has turned up at police headquarters that shows a young woman who will soon turn up dead—and nastily so. “A serial rapist who’s been treated, possibly chemically castrated,” theorizes Margot, who’s seen such things before, about the stalker/murderer. More nasty killing ensues: “Susanna realizes she’s not going to make it. Ice-cold anguish opens up like a chasm as she stops fighting for her life." It’s vintage Kepler: There’s no nice way to leave the world, if he has anything to say about it. Now, in the fifth novel in his ongoing series, he brings back the lead character in the inaugural volume, the hypnotist and psychologist Erik Maria Bark, a bundle of neuroses himself. He has ideas about who might be behind the string of killings, but he’s also caught up in intrigue of his own making, which complicates an already tangled tale that picks its way through a barrel of red herrings. Along the way, Joona re-enters the picture, just this side of being a vigilante and just this side of breaking down, badly fed and migraine-riddled. No bad guy can hope to escape the justice-bent trio—but is it a guy at all? Kepler’s story is skillfully laid out, but it doesn’t stand alone as well as the preceding four volumes; the reader will want to catch up with them before attempting this one, with its unexpected villain and its depiction of a Sweden that, though tidy and with good health care and progressive prisons, seems to be a pretty dangerous place to find oneself.
Longtime fans won’t be disappointed—but only those longtime fans are likely to catch all the nuances in Kepler’s whodunit.