Lazarus: doubly deadly and back from the dead…

It’s the old battle of wits between a discredited investigator and his ultimate enemy: an intelligent, ruthless and unpredictable sociopath who doesn’t stop at mere murder. Instead he destroys his victim’s lives: literally buries their loved ones and watches with clinical fascination as his opponents attempt to out-manoeuvre him. It’s hard to imagine that anyone could breathe life back into one of crime fiction’s most over-used scenarios – but the writing duo that forms Lars Kepler have brought this well-worn cliché back from the dead, and with particularly vicious panache.

What if your worst enemy – who the world believes is dead and gone – isn’t dead at all? Instead he’s merely been biding his time, waiting for the right moment to rip apart your family, destroy your friends and utterly crush your spirit until there’s nothing left in life but grief, guilt and endless agony.

The title kinda gives the game away for regular readers who’ve enjoyed the earlier books in the Joona Linna series. Just as Swedish detective Linna starts to get his life back on track, a shadow from the past seemingly rises from the grave and starts killing once again. The stalking story which follows sees Linna and his nemesis swap the role of hunter-killer multiple times as the entangled plot proceeds. The tension builds inexorably – threatening Linna’s friends and colleagues alike – until a final showdown which is every bit as gripping as those between Dr Lecter and Will Graham.

There’s plenty in this grisly tale which completely defies common sense, but the plot progressed with such a rapid pace – and the story is so deftly told – that I really didn’t pay much attention to the more preposterous parts. There are some truly gruesome moments and a series of mischievous cliff-hangers which make it nigh-on impossible to stop for a breather. And if you can’t abide the idea of being buried alive, then you should definitely not read this.

In short, Lazarus is a thumpingly good thriller – although possibly not the place to start if you’re new to the writers or key characters. It definitely helps to know the back story. Stack this on the shelf alongside other Scandinavian authors like Jo Nesbo or Stefan Ahnhem – it belongs alongside the fast-paced, pulse-pounding thrillers, not with the measured, leisurely police procedurals of Wallander and Wisting.

Reviewed by Rowena Hoseason
Lazarus by Lars Kepler is available at Amazon


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