Review: The Fire Witness, by Lars Kepler
After two people are brutally murdered in the middle of the night at a facility for disturbed girls, National Police detective Joona Linna is called in to observe the local police, despite being under investigation for his actions in a previous case. He soon discovers that one of the girls, Vicky Bennet, is missing and she quickly becomes the chief suspect in the killings. But when she kidnaps a young boy, the race is on to find both children before disaster strikes.
This is the first novel I’ve read by Lars Kepler, the pseudonym for Swedish writing duo, Alexander and Alexandra Ahndoril. It’s a fast-paced, intriguing crime thriller that is full of action, interesting characters and great writing.
Joona Linna is a fascinating and very human protagonist. It’s easy to empathise with the decisions he makes and the way he conducts his investigations, in contrast to his superiors and the bumbling local police who seem eager to scupper his enquiries, even in the face of overwhelming evidence. He also has a dark past, which is hinted at throughout the book, until a shocking event is revealed towards the end of the story, seemingly setting up the next book in the series.
Not having read the previous novels, I don’t know how much of Joona Linna’s family tragedy has been explored in the past, but I’m eager to go back and read them to find out more.
The Fire Witness opens with a dramatic and chilling account of the murders, told from the perspective of one of the victims. The story then progresses at a brisk pace, with the short chapters encouraging the reader on even more quickly.
At times, the story has the air of a horror film, as it is written in a filmic style that makes it easy to visualise the action. The scenes revolving around the troubled girls who reside at the site of the murders have an unsettling feel. This is partly down to the unpredictability of the characters, but after the girls are moved away from the hospital to another, isolated, location, there is the constant sense that something sinister is about to happen.
The only aspect of the story that jars is the inclusion of a psychic character who tries to contact the police with information regarding the murders. But as this story arc develops, it is clear that she may actually have vital information about the identity of the killer.
This is a powerful and pacy crime thriller with a storyline full of dark, dramatic twists. I definitely plan to read the earlier books in this series as soon as I can and will be awaiting the next instalment.
Please note: I received an advance copy of this book as part of the Amazon Vine programme, however opinions are my own.