I am going to take a little break from reading translations now. I know some people don’t mind them, but it’s the rare translation that doesn’t irk me. Lars Keplar’s well-reviewed suspense thriller The Hypnotist was another translated miss for me.
Detective Joona Linna is on the hunt for a serial killer after a family is discovered in their home stabbed to death. Well, the father was killed elsewhere, the oldest sister is missing, and the son – although suffering from major injuries – has survived, but is in a coma. Linna figures that time is of the essence because what if the killer is after the sister? He needs whatever information the survivor, Josef, can provide. Who you gonna call?
That would be Erik Maria Bark, disgraced hypnotherapist. He’s got all sorts of professional and personal baggage, but he’s absolutely the dude you want to call if you want to reach someone unreachable. Apparently. He takes some convincing, though, because he has sworn off practicing hypnosis.
Okay – so I was relatively invested in the beginning. Gruesome murder. Conflicted doctor. Whodunnit. You know, all the things. But then the translation started to irritate me, mostly the dialogue which always seems clunky and inauthentic to me. I sorta feel like once something’s been translated into English, a native English speaker needs to have a pass at it to smooth out the rough edges or something. Or maybe that’s what has happened. In any case, when there’s a lot of dialogue it just rips me out of the story because I keep think, people don’t speak this way.
Listen to this exchange between Linna and a witness. (And it’s not even a good example.)
After a while a man appears with a towel wound around his hips. His skin looks as if it’s burning; he’s leathery and very tanned. “Hi. I was on the sun bed.”
Nice,” says Joona.
“No, it isn’t,” Tobias Franzen replies. “There’s an enzyme missing from my liver. I have to spend two hours a day on that thing.”
“That’s quite another matter, of course,” Joona says dryly.
“You wanted to ask me something.”
“I want to know if you saw or heard anything unusual in the early morning of Saturday, December twelfth.”
Tobias scratches his chest. His fingernails leave white marks on his sunburned skin.
“Let me think, last Friday night. I’m sorry, but I can’t really remember anything in particular.
“OK, thank you very much, that’s all,” says Joona, inclining his head.
Yep. That’s your crack detective, right there. No wonder it took 500 pages to solve this thing.
And then, the whole thing started to fall apart for me.
Josef goes missing. And then is rarely mentioned again. His sister is put into witness protection…and is rarely mentioned again. Then we get all this stuff about Erik Maria Bark’s past. (Yes, that’s how he’s referred to almost every time.) And his son, Benjamin, goes missing. And his wife’s ex-cop father gets involved. And all these previous hypnosis patients come into the mix. I just lost interest in the whole proceeding and I slogged through only because I was mildly interested in seeing how the whole thing played out.
Unsatisfactorily, I must say.
This is the beginning of a series featuring Detective Linna. I will not be reading any more.