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What I’m reading! My Review of the Joona Linna series by Lars Kepler

I recently finished the Joona Linna series, written by Lars Kepler, a husband-wife writing duo from Sweden.  The series consists of 5 books, The Hypnotist, The Nightmare, The Fire Witness, The Sandman, and Stalker.  The series follows a main character, named Joona Linna, who is a detective Inspector in Sweden.  He specializes in serial killers and the more grisly crimes that come along.  He is impulsive, passionate, and moody!  Very intelligent and observant, with the highly sought after characteristic of most detectives, that uncanny, and dark, ability to think like a killer.  It makes him a very successful detective, but a not-so-successful human being.

I absolutely loved the first two books.  I devoured them.  I waited on the last three books, until I knew the last book was ready to be released, so that I could just read them all back to back without having to wait for each one to be released.  The books are originally written in Swedish, so they take a little longer to be released in English.  The first two books were translated by the same person, and are very well done.  Apart from a few awkward conversations, and a bluntness to the characters, the translation between languages was seamless.  The third book was translated by a different person, but I didn’t really notice, as it was also well done.  The fourth and fifth books, however, I noticed right away that they were also translated by a different person.  I didn’t enjoy them as much.  The translation was too literal and didn’t flow well.  I feel like the translator didn’t take the time to convey the meaning of the book into the English language, he just translated the words.  The effect was that the story was flat, subtleties were missed, and there were a lot of repetitive adjectives.  In the fifth book, I even found myself offended at the descriptions used for a pregnant character.  She was constantly referred to as ‘heavy’ and ‘bulging’.  Up to this point, the few sexist remarks in the book could easily be chalked up to cultural differences, and the setting of the book, where a police station is still, sadly, a boy’s club, for the most part.  Since I can’t read Swedish, I have no idea if the authors wrote these descriptions in the original story, or if this was solely on the translators shoulders, but since I didn’t encounter this in the other books, I feel like this boils down to translation.

I also felt that the fifth book was rushed.  Not that the book is shorter, but more that the story was rushed, and not as well thought out.  I find it curious that they used brand new characters for the book, when there were still old, familiar characters, who’s stories hadn’t ended, or could have ended with the conclusion of the series.  It was especially odd considering the return of a character from the first book, probably used to give that ‘full circle’ effect that neatly ties up a series.  These new characters didn’t add anything to the story, necessarily, or at least, they didn’t add the things that the authors hoped they would, in my opinion.   I think giving us a new point of view of Joona Linna made him less sympathetic.  At a time when he is becoming more and more impulsive and careless, it wasn’t helpful to have ‘strangers’ pointing this out.  I felt disconnected to him, and found his irrational behaviour to be a little overboard.  In fact, I felt that a lot of the characters reactions to different situations in the book, were less than realistic.  The whole book seemed desperate to me.  I know that they wanted the desperation of the characters to be conveyed, to add to the suspense, but I found some of it too far-fetched.

All in all, I did really enjoy this series, and according to Goodreads, the books are well received and enjoyed.  I recommend this series to anyone who enjoys psychological thrillers.  There are some trigger subjects in each of the books, including mental illness, suicide, adultery, sex, violence, drugs, and language, so please go into the books knowing that.  I gave them: 5, 5, 5, 4, 3 stars, respectively.

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Let me know how you liked this series, and if you have any recommendations for another series I might enjoy 🙂

Thanks so much for reading!

Jenn

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