In the High Peaks

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Will the Real Lars Kepler Please Stand Up!

Before I write about Lars Kepler, I want to say I thoroughly enjoyed The House of Stairs, by Barbara Vine (Ruth Rendell), which I finished early this morning. Now I want to read the first two award-winning Barbara Vine psychological mysteries. [It's hard to call them "psychological thrillers" today, in 2011, because they lack the extreme, cutting-edge, nature of this genre as it stands now. And I must say this lack takes absolutely nothing away from its quality. The House of Stairs,, published in 1988 emphasizes deep characterization and the introspection of the first-person narrator. These aspects are acutely developed and are what make this novel a page-turner. Bloody grotesqueries are not needed because the eccentric, inexplicable actions of the characters make the book a profound "what the hell is going on?" kind of book.

Somewhere, somewhere I read several favorable reviews of The Hypnotist by the Swedish writer(s) Lars Kepler. I ordered the book from the library weeks upon weeks ago and it finally arrived for me yesterday. At 500 pages, I started reading immediately because it's on the bestseller list (in the top 20) and I have only 14 days with it. I'm only 150 pages in, so I can't give an evaluation except to say I'm entranced and it's keeping me reading. So, what I'm actually bringing to light is an issue: On the back dustcover flap is a photo of a middle-ageish man and woman and a brief sentence: "Lars Kepler is the pen name of a literary couple who live in Sweden." (!) I must say, I expect much more from the back flap of a hardcover jacket.

I fault the publisher, but I don't think it's Farrar, Straus, and Giroux's doing. As it turns out, the writers are a married couple, Alexandra and Alexander Ahndoril, both of whom have written and published literary fiction prior to The Hypnotist. I'm just guessing, but maybe the Ahndorils and/or their literary agent thought that if the thriller flopped, the failure would not negatively impact their reputation or the sales of their established literary writings if their names were not revealed.

Of course the book is a huge success, so their names have been flounted. They are "the successors to Stieg Larsson's fame," newspapers claim. Poor Stieg Larsson. How many successors have there been to claim his fortune?

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